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

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.


Jordan criticizes Israel over Al-Aqsa Mosque changes

Updated 41 min 48 sec ago

Jordan criticizes Israel over Al-Aqsa Mosque changes

  • Palestinians welcomed the Jordanian position but expressed concerns over a decline of support for Amman’s custodianship of the holy places at Al-Aqsa

AMMAN: Jordan has stepped up its diplomatic pressure on Israel, demanding that they do not change the status quo at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Zaid Lozi, director-general of Jordan’s Foreign Ministry, summoned Israeli Ambassador to Jordan Amir Weissbrod to protest Israel’s actions in Jerusalem.

According to Petra News, Lozi told the envoy that recent remarks by Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Ardan over changing the status quo at Al-Aqsa Mosque are unacceptable. Lozi added that the mosque is a place of worship for Muslims only.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi addressed a group of EU ambassadors in Amman and “stressed the urgency of effective international steps against Israel’s violations of Holy Sites in occupied Jerusalem.”

Safadi told Arab News that the situation in Jerusalem is challenging and must be addressed. He said that he will present a detailed report on Jordan’s position to Parliament on Monday.

The ministry denounced the Israeli authorities’ closure of the mosque’s gates and demanded that Israel respects its obligations in accordance with international humanitarian law.

HIGHLIGHT

• Muslims insist that all 144,000 square meters of the UNESCO World Heritage Site are a single unit that has belonged to them for 11 centuries.

Hatem Abdel Qader, a member of the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, told Arab News that Israeli authorities had been attempting to enforce major changes at the mosque.

“Security forces barged into the mosque yesterday. They went to the Bab Al-Rahmeh Mosque where they confiscated carpets and the closet where shoes are kept.”

Jordan’s diplomatic statements follow comments by Ardan, who said that Israel is disappointed with the current state of affairs at Al-Aqsa Mosque.

According to Israeli officials, the mosque area is sovereign Israeli territory, despite it being administered by Jordan. Muslims insist that all 144,000 square meters of the UNESCO World Heritage Site are a single unit that has belonged to them for 11 centuries.

Qader said that Palestinians welcomed the Jordanian position but expressed concerns over a decline of support for Amman’s custodianship of the holy places at Al-Aqsa.

“There appears to have been a gradual deterioration of Arab and Islamic support to Jordan. It surprises me that Muslims have been quiet, perhaps they see an advantage if Jordan’s role is diminished? If true, this would be dangerous.”

Qader, a former minister in the Palestinian government and a current member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, told Arab News that Jordan’s position “guarantees continuation of the status quo.”