Agencies (Qasioun) - The Russian-Syrian joint military operation has carried out unlawful airstrikes in recent weeks that have killed civilians trapped in northern Syria, Human Rights Watch said today. The ongoing attacks and the lack of escape routes highlight the dangers facing civilians in the area and undermine any notion that Idlib can be considered safe for civilians.
Russian and Syrian aircraft started the attacks on Idlib province and surrounding areas on September 19, 2017. A Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson stated that it was responding to a large-scale offensive in the area by Hay’et Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which includes fighters from the group Jabhat Fath al-Sham, formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra, an affiliate of Al-Qaeda. However, evidence Human Rights Watch collected indicates that the attacks struck markets and populated residential areas, including camps for the displaced. The attacks used cluster munitions and explosive weapons with wide-area effect in populated areas.
On September 15, Russia, Iran, and Turkey agreed to a ceasefire zone in Idlib province and parts of Hama and Western Aleppo, as part of a de-escalation agreement.