Russia strikes kill 78 Turkey-backed rebels in Syria: Monitor
Over 90 wounded as warplanes targeted a training camp of the Faylaq Al Sham faction
Air strikes by Damascus regime ally Russia killed 78 Turkey-backed rebels in northwestern Syria on Monday, a monitor said, in the bloodiest surge in violence since a truce almost eight months ago.
More than 90 others were wounded when Russian warplanes targeted a training camp of the Faylaq Al Sham faction in the Jabal Duwayli area in Idlib province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
In early March, a truce brokered between Moscow and Ankara stemmed a deadly months-long Russia-backed regime military offensive on the country’s last major rebel stronghold in Idlib.
That onslaught from December had displaced almost a million people from their homes in one of the worst humanitarian crises of the nine-year civil war.
Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman described Monday’s strikes as the “deadliest since the ceasefire came into force”.
The National Liberation Front, an umbrella group of Ankara-backed rebels based in Idlib that includes Faylaq Al Sham, said that Monday’s Russian strikes hit one of its positions and caused casualties. It did not give an exact death toll.
NLF spokesman Sayf Raad denounced the “Russian aircraft and regime forces continuously violating the Turkish-Russian deal in targeting military positions, villages and towns”.
Of the almost one million people displaced in the last Idlib offensive, more than 200,000 have returned home to their towns and villages, most since the ceasefire went into force.
The March truce has largely held, despite some intermittent bombardment in the area from both sides.
Russian air strikes have from time to time targeted military positions, including those of Turkey-backed groups, Abdel Rahman said.
The US army on Thursday said it carried a drone strike against Al Qaeda leaders in northwestern Syria, with the Observatory reporting 17 militants killed at a dinner gathering.
Hayat Tahrir Al Sham, led by Syria’s former Al Qaeda affiliate, and allied rebels dominate the region of some three million people, around half living in camps after being displaced by fighting in other parts of the country.
Last week, Turkey withdrew from one of its largest outposts in northwestern Syria which had been encircled for the past year by Syrian regime forces.
The outpost in Morek had been Turkey’s largest in Hama province, most of which is now under Syrian government control.
After a string of military victories backed by Russia, the Syrian government has regained control of around 70 per cent of the country, the Observatory says.
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