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Russian aircraft violate ceasefire in Syria’s Idlib as Turkey reinforces observation posts

Russia launched airstrikes in violation of the ceasefire [AFP]

Date of publication: 15 January, 2020

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Russian warplanes have bombed towns in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province as Turkey sent armoured vehicles to reinforce its observation posts in the area.

Russian aircraft resumed bombardment of Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province on Tuesday evening in violation of a ceasefire announced last week.

Russian warplanes bombed the deserted city of Maarat al-Numan as well as the towns of Dadikh, Khan al-Subl, Maasaran, and Hartamiya in Idlib, causing material damage.

The Syrian Civil Defence said that it had recorded a total ten airstrikes by Russian forces as well as 26 incidents of artillery shelling by regime forces, following a two-day lull in strikes.

"The Russian air strikes have shattered two days of relative calm that gave people a small relief from daily raids," Mohamad Rashid, an activist, told Reuters.

The Syrian Civil Defence also said that a man had died of his wounds from a previous airstrike on the town of Binnish.

More than 300,000 people have fled their homes in Idlib province since last month, following fierce bombardment by Russia and the Assad regime. Over 3 million people, most of them women and children are trapped in the area according to the United Nations, and refugee camps have no more capacity for displaced people.

Russia has previously announced ceasefires in rebel-held areas only to break them at will. Analysts believe that the Assad regime and Russia are following a piecemeal strategy which will gradually allow them to take control of the whole of Idlib province.

Read more: How Russia uses 'de-escalation agreements' to destroy cities in Syria

Many of the province’s residents fear the return of Assad’s authoritarian rule and its associated repression. Regime opponents have been arrested and even tortured to death in previously rebel-held areas which have signed “reconciliation agreements” with the regime.

Russia announced on Monday that it had opened three “humanitarian corridors” to allow Idlib civilians to flee to regime-held areas but activists reported that no one had used them.

Some residents of Idlib look to Turkey for protection and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that he was determined to stop violations of the ceasefire.

A Turkish military convoy made up of 15 armoured vehicles arrived in Idlib province on Tuesday. The vehicles will be deployed to Turkey’s observation posts in the area.

More than 500,000 people have been killed and millions more displaced since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, after the Assad regime’s brutal suppression of pro-democracy protests.

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