Russian and Syrian government aircraft launched a massive airstrike on Syria’s Idlib province. According to preliminary information, the planes released several dozens of bombs. At least four civilians have been killed, including two children, according to reports from local monitoring groups.
According to the media, this was the most powerful airstrike in the last month. It took place the day after negotiations on the situation in Idlib which were attended by the presidents of Iran, Turkey and Russia. The three countries have signed an agreement to coordinate their actions during the military operation in Syria.
Moscow and Tehran are key allies of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, who support the offensive in Idlib, claiming that the province is being occupied by jihadists. However, Turkish President Recep Erdogan is afraid that the operation will send another wave of refugees towards his country, and said that it will end in a “humanitarian catastrophe and an even greater bloodbath”.
The international community is concerned that Moscow or Damascus may use chemical weapons in the attack. Russia’s Defense Ministry, on the other hand, believes that Islamists intend to use chemical weapons against civilians as a form of provocation. The US and France have warned Damascus that they will respond in force if chemical weapons are used.
Idlib is the last remaining region of Syria that is largely controlled by various Islamist groups and Syrian armed opposition forces. Russia and Iran are offering military support to the Assad regime’s forces. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Russian Aerospace Forces were responsible for roughly 30 bombings on September 4. Turkish news outlet Anadolu reports that the Russian fighters and bombers are targeting residential areas in addition to the armed opposition’s positions.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the airstrikes were being made because “several tens of thousands of extremists headed by the terrorist group Al-Nusra Front” are concentrated in Idlib.
Idlib has a current population in the region of 3 million people, 1 million of whom are children. Many of them were driven there by the Syrian army from other regions of Syria. The UN is concerned that as many as 800,000 people from Idlib may become refugees as a result of the fighting.