The Russian Defence Ministry said that Russian planes operating in Idlib province had only targeted fighters.

A Syrian man with a blood stained shirt gestures near debris following a reported Russian air strike in the district of Jisr al-Shughur, in the Idlib province, on September 25, 2017.
A Syrian man with a blood stained shirt gestures near debris following a reported Russian air strike in the district of Jisr al-Shughur, in the Idlib province, on September 25, 2017. (AFP)

The Russian Defence Ministry on Thursday denied allegations that Russian and Syrian jets had killed at least 150 civilians in over a week of bombing, saying it had been careful not to hit civilians.

The ministry was responding to comments made on Wednesday by opposition rescue workers who accused Moscow and Damascus of killing at least 150 civilians and of injuring dozens in air strikes in Idlib Province.

Major-General Igor Konashenkov said in a statement that the opposition-run Civil Defence group which made the allegations was made up of "charlatans" who could not be regarded as objective sources of reliable information.

"Russian air force planes do not strike residential districts in populated areas in order to avoid casualties," Konashenkov said.

"Targets are terrorist bases, armoured vehicles and ammunition stories which are always identified by drones and always confirmed by other channels beforehand."

He said Russian planes operating in Idlib Province had only targeted fighters and their equipment in the last week.

Destroyed ambulances from the Syrian Civil Defence are seen in the town of Khan Sheikun in Syrias Idlib province on September 22, 2017, following reported Russian air strikes.
Destroyed ambulances from the Syrian Civil Defence are seen in the town of Khan Sheikun in Syrias Idlib province on September 22, 2017, following reported Russian air strikes. (AFP)

The airstrikes

Russian and Syrian jets killed at least 150 civilians and injured dozens in over a week of heavy bombing that shattered a six-month halt in intensive aerial raids in opposition-held northwestern parts of Syria, opposition rescue workers said on Wednesday.

The renewed bombing campaign came after an array of militants led by the former Al Qaeda offshoot in Syria last week waged a wide-scale offensive against regime-controlled areas in northern Hama.

"We have pulled 152 bodies and we have rescued 279 civilians since the Russian and regime bombing campaign," said Salem Abu al Azem, a senior rescue worker from the opposition-run Civil Defence in Idlib, adding bodies were still being pulled out of the wreckage of buildings flattened by air raids.

Civil defence officials and other humanitarian aid workers have documented the destruction of six hospitals, five defence centres, and power stations in the first few days of the bombing campaign alongside hitting camps where displaced civilians have been sheltering.

Picture taken on September 19, 2017 shows hospital beds covered in rubble and debris following a reported air strike by Syrian government forces in the village of Al Tahh, in the northwestern Idlib province.
Picture taken on September 19, 2017 shows hospital beds covered in rubble and debris following a reported air strike by Syrian government forces in the village of Al Tahh, in the northwestern Idlib province. (AFP)

Easy to tell

Rebels and witnesses can easily differentiate  Russian jets from Syrian planes with the former flying in sorties at high altitudes making drops with devastating impact.

The strikes began with intensive bombing of towns and cities in southern Idlib where the militants have a large presence but in recent days have spread to most towns across the province that borders Turkey.

Thousands of families have fled from towns such as Jisr al Shqour and Jabal al Zawya to rural areas less exposed to daily bombings and shelling, aid workers said.

The bombing campaign however, comes shortly after a tripartite deal struck by Moscow, Ankara and Tehran to deploy an observer force in Idlib, a province where the former Al Qaeda Syrian offshoot has cemented its control after it crushed opponents.

The Kremlin said earlier this week that Russia’s president Vladimir Putin was expected to meet his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on a visit to Ankara on Thursday.

Syrian rebel officials says Turkey wants to get the approval of Moscow, the power with the dominant role in Syria, to press ahead with its widely anticipated plan to deploy troops in Idlib.

New round of talks

UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura said Wednesday that he hopes to convene a new round of Syria talks in Geneva in the coming weeks.

"I am calling on both sides to assess the situation with realism and responsibility to the people of Syria and to prepare seriously to participate in the Geneva talks," de Mistura said at the UN Security Council.

He said he intends to convene an eighth round of talks on the bloody, more than six-year conflict no later than the end of October or early November.

De Mistura has already hosted seven rounds of largely unsuccessful talks in Geneva, with the fate of Syrian President Bashar al Assad as one of the main obstacles to progress.

At the same time, there is a second process of negotiations in Kazakh capital Astana that has led to the establishment of multiple "de-escalation zones" that have contributed to a reduction in violence.

"These developments have had a positive impact on civilians," said Mark Lowcock, the UN's head of humanitarian affairs and emergency relief.

But "we continue to receive reports of violations of international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict," he said.

Source: Reuters