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White Helmets: Syria regime attacked Idlib 6,422 times in March

Civil defense members conduct a search and rescue operation under the rubbles of demolished buildings after airstrikes hit the residential areas of de-escalation zone Idlib, Syria on 22 March 2019. [Hasan Muhtar - Anadolu Agency]
Civil defense members conduct a search and rescue operation under the rubbles of demolished buildings after airstrikes hit the residential areas of de-escalation zone Idlib, Syria on 22 March 2019. [Hasan Muhtar - Anadolu Agency]

The Syrian regime attacked the northern opposition-held territories 6,422 in March, the White Helmets civil defence unit has revealed, highlighting the continued disintegration of the Sochi ceasefire agreement.

The last opposition dominated province of Idlib, with the stronghold extending into the countryside of Hama and Aleppo, has been targeted by the Syrian air force, with help from Russia fighter jets, as well as Iranian militias on the ground.

At least 135 people are believed to have been killed in the past month alone, with the majority of the attacks occurred in frontier territories in Hama, wounding hundreds of civilians and displacing thousands of families. Between 9 February and 6 April, 160,583 people were forced to migrate to areas near the Turkish border, according to local NGOs.

Russia has only acknowledged nine violations by regime forces. Opposition groups have attempted to repel attacks, but have no means to protect themselves from aerial bombardment.

The extent of the violations has called into question the longevity of the Sochi ceasefire agreement, credited with preventing a full-scale offensive in the region, home to some 3.5 million people, a third of whom are children.

Read: Amnesty International: Syrian regime and Russia continue targeting civilians

Signed by Turkey, Russia and Iran, it stipulated the creation of a 15 kilometre deep buffer zone around the Idlib region and nearby Hama and Aleppo, in return for the withdrawal of heavy weaponry by the opposition.

Although Turkish patrols resumed in numerous air strike sites last year, recent bombing has continued largely unabated

Ankara has condemned what it said were increasing provocations to wreck the truce and warned that a bombing campaign by the Russians and the Syrian army would cause a major humanitarian crisis, but many residents are exasperated by the failure of Turkish forces to respond to the bombardments.

On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for the third time in as many months. The two statesmen discussed the Syria file, pledging to coordinate efforts to revive a political process, including forming a constitutional committee as soon as possible. However no mention was made of the Idlib violations.

The UN and aid organisations have repeatedly warned that a fully-fledged offensive on Idlib could spark the worst humanitarian catastrophe of the country’s civil war so far.

Read: Russia’s envoy to UN: Iran, Turkey will eventually leave Syria

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