Russia pounds Syria’s Idlib after efforts to prevent offensive fail
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Russia pounds Syria’s Idlib after efforts to prevent offensive fail

War monitor says 4 civilians killed in rebel stronghold in the ‘most violent’ Russian airstrikes in a month

This picture taken in Kafr Ain on September 7, 2018, shows smoke rising as government forces target the city, 4 kilometers east of Khan Sheikhoun in the southern countryside of Idlib province. (AFP Photo/Anas Al-Dyab)
This picture taken in Kafr Ain on September 7, 2018, shows smoke rising as government forces target the city, 4 kilometers east of Khan Sheikhoun in the southern countryside of Idlib province. (AFP Photo/Anas Al-Dyab)

BEIRUT — Russian airstrikes on Syria’s last major rebel bastion Saturday were the “most violent” in a month since Damascus and its ally Moscow started threatening it with an imminent attack around a month ago, a monitor said.

Nearly 60 Russian air raids hit Idlib province near the Turkish border in less than three hours, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.

The Russian strikes and regime barrel bombing on south and southeastern areas of the province killed at least four civilians including two children, the Britain-based monitor said.

The raids targeted jihadist and rebel positions, some of which were empty and others in use, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.

It was the “most violent” bombardment since August 10, when fierce bombardment killed at least 53 civilians, including 28 children, in Idlib and the neighboring province of Aleppo, he said.

Members of the Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the ‘White Helmets,’ carrying a victim after airstrikes in Kafr Ain in the Idlib province, September 7, 2018. (AFP/Anas al-Dyab)

Idlib and nearby areas are largely controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an alliance led by Al-Qaeda’s former Syrian affiliate, as well as rival rebels.

On Friday, Russian air strikes killed four hardline rebels and a shepherd in Idlib province, the Observatory said.

The spike in violence came after Russia, fellow regime ally Iran, and rebel backer Turkey on Friday failed to immediately agree on a solution to avert an imminent government offensive.

A handout picture taken and released on September 7, 2018, by the Turkish Presidential Press service shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R), Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (C), and Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) joining hands during a trilateral summit in Tehran. (AFP/Turkish Presidency Press Office)

President Bashar Assad’s regime has upped its rhetoric on retaking control of Idlib and surrounding areas over the past month.

The threats come after government forces seized back areas around the capital Damascus and in the south from rebels and jihadists earlier this year.

More than 350,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since Syria’s civil war started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-Assad protests.

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