21 civilians dead as Assad army pounds northwest
The northwestern Idlib region, a jihadist bastion, is supposed to be protected by a September buffer zone deal
At least 21 civilians were killed on Tuesday as Syria’s regime intensified its bombardment of the last jihadist stronghold in the country’s northwest, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).
Nine children were among the 21 killed in government fire on several towns in Idlib province and the countryside of neighboring Aleppo, the British-based monitoring group said.
Strikes on a busy street in the village of Kafr Halab, on the western edge of Aleppo province, killed at least nine civilians.
Idlib and parts of the neighbouring provinces of Aleppo, Hama and Latakia are under the control of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a jihadist group led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate.
The region is supposed to be protected from a massive government offensive by a September buffer zone deal, but the jihadist bastion has come under increasing bombardment by the regime and its ally Russia since late April.
SOHR says nearly 280 civilians have been killed in the spike in violence since then. Last week, after the United States claimed that Syrian government forces were once again using chemical weapons, SOHR said there was no evidence suggesting a new chemical attack had taken place.
Meanwhile, France’s top diplomat said Tuesday that the country had an “indication” that a chemical attack had been carried out in Syria’s Idlib province this month.
“We have an indication that chemical weapons were used in the Idlib region, but for now it has not been verified,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told a parliamentary commission.
“We’re being cautious because we consider that chemical weapons use has to be proven and be lethal, in which case we can react,” he said.