First attacks in Northwest Syria since the ceasefire came into effect

Fire pours out after an airstrike hit a building in the Idlib province Fire pours out after an airstrike hit a building in the Idlib province Omar Haj Kadour/ AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

6 June 2020

After three months of relative calm, Russian air raids target the major rebel stronghold in Northwest Syria

As a result of a series of talks in Moscow between Putin and Erdogan, on  5 March the two leaders agreed a ceasefire for Syria’s Idlib region. The ceasefire  was reinforced by the establishment of a security corridor and joint patrols of  both countries’ armies. The truce had brought to a halt a three-months air and ground campaign of the Syrian government forces and their Russian allies, which killed hundreds of civilians and forced over 1 million to flee to the Turkish border. However, in the beginning of June the attacks resumed, jeopardizing the already fragile ceasefire. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), on 2r June, Russian airplanes hit Jabal Al-Akrad and Sahl Al-Ghab at the juncture of Hama, Idlib and Latakia provinces; at least two civilians were , killed.

It has to be highlighted that since the March ceasefire, the “de-escalation zone” established in September 2019 witnessed a “tense calm”. Bashar al-Assad’s regime carried out rocket attacks on several positions held by the rebels almost on a daily basis. Nevertheless, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the past three months some 120,000 persons returned to their home communities. . The past weeks saw an unprecedented escalation characterized by the mobilization of troops from both, government and opposition faction, which constitutes members of  the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a jihadist militant group that controls  part of the area. This is a clear sign of a possible return  of the violence, as indeed occurred in the beginning of this month.

The Northwest region is the last theatre of a war that started in 2011 and in which more than 380,000 people were killed.early half of the country’s pre-war population of 22 million is displaced, and around 5,555,000 have fled the country.This region is the last stronghold of the rebel groups supported by the Turkish Government and due to be reconquered by Assad’s regime, which receives Russia’s active backing since 2015. The ceasefire had been seen as  a promising step towards a peaceful solution for the conflict with an all time low of the civilian death toll in May of , 71, according to the SOHR. However, the Russian attacks of the past days show, once again, that an end to the hostilities is still nowhere near.

 

To learn more, please visit:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-syria-security/russia-turkey-agree-ceasefire-deal-for-syrias-idlib-idUSKBN20S161

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/06/russian-air-raids-target-nw-syria-time-months-200603153449937.html

https://www.dw.com/en/russia-carries-out-first-syria-airstrikes-in-three-months/a-53668448

 

Author: Michele Pitta

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