Russia launched an aerial attack Sunday on an area near the Syrian city of Idlib, the last bastion of rebels attempting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad, ushering in a new year of hostilities, witnesses and monitors said.
The attacks killed three people — two children and a woman — according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition-linked group with unclear funding. The White Helmets, an opposition volunteer group, said that an additional 10 people were injured.
The round of airstrikes targeted the Al-Sheikh Yusuf village in western Idlib, the central prison near Idlib city, and the Sejer water pumping station, the monitor said. Another apparent round of attacks bombed 12 sites around Idlib, with no reported casualties.
The water station in particular is a vital resource for the community, and was rendered out of commission by the attacks, according to Reuters.
“Continued destruction of civilian infrastructure will only cause more suffering of civilians. Attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure must stop,” United Nations Deputy Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis Mark Cutts wrote in a tweet.
Russian-backed government forces still sporadically strike targets in the northwestern rebel enclave of Idlib, but a ceasefire deal has largely held.
Israel, which has a vested interest in keeping the conflict away from its borders and is concerned about Iranian operations and influence in Syria, allegedly sent warplanes that fired a number of missiles at the port of the Syrian coastal city of Latakia last Tuesday, causing large explosions and fires, in the second alleged Israeli strike in December on the key facility.
For years, Israel avoided conducting strikes against the Latakia port due to the large presence of Russian forces nearby, despite Iran allegedly using the terminal to transport advanced munitions through it to its proxies in the region, notably the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group.
The war in Syria has killed close to half a million people and spurred the largest conflict-induced displacement since World War II. However, the fighting, which erupted in 2011 after the brutal repression of anti-government protests, has abated over the past two years.
The conflict in Syria killed 3,746 people in 2021, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, significantly fewer than in 2020, which had already seen the decade-old war’s lowest death toll. According to its figures, 1,505 of them were civilians and among those 360 were children.
AFP contributed to this report.