Suspected Russian strikes kill 44 civilians in northwest Syria: Monitor

Syrian rescuers and civilians recover bodies in Zardana, in the mostly opposition-held northern Syrian Idlib province, in the aftermath of airstrikes in the area, on June 8. AFP
Updated 09 June 2018
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Suspected Russian strikes kill 44 civilians in northwest Syria: Monitor

  • The air strikes are thought to have been carried out by Russian jets on a residential area in northwestern Syrian
  • The toll includes five children, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said

BEIRUT: Airstrikes thought to have been carried out by Russian jets on an opposition-held residential area in northwestern Syria have killed 44 civilians, a Britain-based monitor said on Friday.
Six children were among those killed when the strikes hit the Zardana area of Idlib province late Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
This is the highest death toll in a single attack on the region this year, it noted.
The monitoring group said Russian war planes probably carried out the attacks. The Russian Defense Ministry dismissed the Observatory’s reports of strikes on Zardana as having “nothing to do with reality,” in a statement carried by the TASS news agency. It denied its war planes were involved.
Russia is Syria’s main ally in his war against an armed opposition, now in its seventh year.
The Observatory said the jets targeted the village of Zardana in northern rural Idlib overnight, killing 27 men, 11 women and six children.
The death toll is expected to increase, since some of the 60 injured in the strikes were in a critical condition, the Britain-based Observatory said. Rescue workers were still searching the rubble for survivors.
An AFP correspondent at the scene saw volunteers with a crane still searching the rubble in the early morning.
Half-a-dozen men in civilian clothes helped carry a person in a black body bag away from the site of the strikes, which pulverised several buildings.
At night, dozens of wounded streamed in to the local hospital, including children, women, elderly people and rescue volunteers, the correspondent said.
Dust dashed with blood covered the twisted bodies of the dead.
Most of Idlib province is held by an array of militant groups with only parts controlled by the Russian-backed government.
The Russian ministry was quoted as saying it had information about fighting between Nusra Front militants and opposition fighters involving heavy artillery fire in the past 24 hours.
The Observatory had reported on Wednesday night violent clashes in the village between local factions, but later said the destruction and resulting casualties were due to airstrikes.
Idlib, a region in northwestern Syria, remains the largest populated area of the country in the hands of insurgents fighting the Damascus government.
In recent years, tens of thousands of fighters and civilians have fled there from parts of the country the army has recaptured with the help of Russia and Iran.
Zardana is largely controlled by opposition fighters, with a small presence of the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham alliance led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate.
Since Russia intervened in its support in 2015, the government has regained control of around half of the country.
More than 350,000 people have been killed in the Syrian war since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.
The Observatory says it relies on sources inside Syria for its information, and determines who carried out strikes on the basis of flight patterns, and the type of aircraft and ammunition used.


Iran vows to keep military forces in Syria despite Israeli threats

Updated 17 January 2019
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Iran vows to keep military forces in Syria despite Israeli threats

  • Israel says it has carried out more than 200 attacks against Iranian targets in Syria in the last two years
  • Iran's Revolutionary Guards’ top commander called Israeli PM Netanyahu’s threats “a joke”

LONDON: Iran will keep military forces in Syria, the head of the elite Revolutionary Guards said on Wednesday, defying Israeli threats that they might be targeted if they do not leave the country.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that Israeli forces would continue to attack Iranians in Syria and warned them “to get out of there fast, because we will continue with our resolute policy.”

Rebuffing the threats, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, the Revolutionary Guards’ top commander, was quoted as saying by the semi-official ISNA news agency that “the Islamic Republic of Iran will keep all its military and revolutionary advisers and its weapons in Syria.”

Jafari called Netanyahu’s threats “a joke,” and warned that the Israeli government “was playing with (a) lion’s tail.”

“You should be afraid of the day that our precision-guided missiles roar and fall on your head,” he said.

Iran and Russia have both backed Syria’s Bashar Assad in a seven-year war against opposition and militants, and have sent thousands of soldiers to the country.

Israel, increasingly concerned that its enemy Iran may establish a long-term military presence in neighboring Syria, says it has carried out more than 200 attacks against Iranian targets in Syria in the last two years.

Netanyahu said on Sunday that Israeli warplanes carried out an attack on what he called an Iranian arms cache in Syria.