Wave of attacks by Syrian government have escalated on the opposition stronghold
March 28, 2019
Source: Bethan McKernan – The Guardian
A school, hospitals and other civilian infrastructure in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province have been targeted by the Syrian government in a wave of attacks by President Bashar al-Assad in the last month, according to a report from Amnesty International.
Rockets fired at a school in Sheikh Idriss on 26 March killed a 10-year-old boy and injured two more children, medical workers said, although there are no military targets in the school’s vicinity.
Another attack in Saraqeb on 9 March struck Al-Hayat hospital, a blood bank and an ambulance response unit, leading to the hospital’s temporary closure.
The report was compiled using dozens of witness testimonies and analysis of video evidence, open source information and satellite imagery, Amnesty said.
“The Syrian government continues to show utter disregard for the laws of war and the lives of civilians,” the organisation said.
Idlib, on the Turkish border in Syria’s north-west, is the last major opposition stronghold in the country. Forced and voluntary displacement from other areas retaken by the government has swollen the province’s population from 1 million to approximately 3 million people.
A ceasefire deal to save Idlib from an attack by Assad, supported by Russia, was brokered in September, averting an offensive that aid groups feared could cause one of the worst humanitarian crises to date in Syria’s eight-year-old war.
However, the truce has been under significant threat since January, when Islamist rebel group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham seized control of the area from more moderate fighting forces.
The escalation in regime airstrikes and artillery attacks on Idlib over the last four weeks appears to have concentrated on areas along the strategic M5 highway, which runs from Damascus to Aleppo, and is one of the country’s major trade routes.
At least 170 civilians have been killed and thousands more displaced by the recent violence, according to conflict monitors.
“The bombing is every day, it’s by both [the] regime and Russia,” said Sara Akhtib, a student at Idlib university. “I hear the sound of the planes every day when I am hiding in my house. I hate it.
“People are very afraid that the ceasefire will not last. We have nowhere to go unless Turkey lets refugees in and I don’t know if they will do that.”
Earlier this month, the US accused Russia and the Syrian government of being responsible for escalating violence in Idlib.
“Despite Russia’s claims to be targeting terrorists, these operations have caused dozens of civilian casualties and have targeted first responders as they attempt to save lives on the ground,” a state department spokesperson said.