At least ten civilians were killed and dozens wounded in an airstrike conducted by the Assad regime hit Idlib Province in north-west Syria yesterday.
The Soviet-made Su-22, still kept in use by the Syrian regime, targeted a crowd of civilians who were waiting for food rations at the aid centre in the town of Ariha. Three children were also reportedly included among the casualties.
The town of Mohambel, west of the province, was also subjected to air strikes while the further town of Bidama was attacked by helicopter with a barrel bomb.
The province of Idlib had been free of airstrikes and regime attacks for the past several weeks, possibly due to talks between the regime, Russia and Turkey regarding a ceasefire. After being agreed upon as a de-escalation zone in Syria’s conflict by Turkey, Iran, and Russia last year in Astana, Kazakhstan, Idlib has become a refuge for around 2.5 million Syrians who fled as a result of the conflict and of the regime’s recapture of their hometowns.
Tens of thousands of opposition fights from various forces have also allegedly found shelter there, and despite it being de-escalation zone, the intended peace is often disrupted by government air strikes and infighting.
The province is also the scene of increased Turkish military presence in north-west Syria, with Idlib having been a key province during Turkey’s “Operation Euphrates Shield” in 2016, which pushed back Al-Qaeda-linked militants and prevented the Kurds from clearing a corridor to the Mediterranean. There are now numerous Turkish observation posts and military bases in Idlib province, which has caused concerns that Turkey is attempting to establish a sphere of influence in the war-torn country.