15 dead as Assad regime, Russian jets target food market in Idlib

The war in Syria has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it erupted in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests. (File/AFP)
Updated 03 December 2019

15 dead as Assad regime, Russian jets target food market in Idlib

  • Death toll rises to 100 in renewed fighting to oust militant group from northwest Syria
  • The Idlib region is home to around three million people including many displaced by Syria’s eight-year civil war

JEDDAH: At least 15 civilians were killed on Monday in airstrikes by Assad regime and Russian fighter jets on targets in Idlib in northwest Syria.

More than 100 people have now died in two days of renewed fighting in the area. Regime leader Bashar Assad met an envoy from Russian President Vladimir Putin in Damascus on Monday to discuss the Idlib crisis and attacks launched by militant groups based there.

Idlib is the last remaining opposition stronghold in Syria, and much of it is under the control of a militant alliance led by Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), the country’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate.

About three million people live in Idlib, including several hundred thousand displaced by the eight-year civil war. The renewed fighting there is the most deadly since a Russia-brokered de-escalation and cease-fire took effect in August.

In Monday’s airstrikes, regime warplanes struck a fruit and vegetable market in Maaret Al-Numan, south of Idlib, and a second produce market in Saraqib to the east. Video footage posted online by the White Helmets rescue group showed victims being carried away from demolished produce stands and burnt-out vehicles.

Maher Mohammed, 35, a trader in the market, said it was the most frightening bombardment he had seen in years.

“We ran inside the shops and threw ourselves on the ground,” he said. “They bombarded half the market. Our neighbors were killed, and two women in a car who had come to do some shopping.”

The Syria Observatory for Human Rights said regime forces and armed groups were locked in heavy clashes on the southeastern edge of the region. “Fighting raged at dawn on Monday on several axes in the southeastern Idlib countryside,” the monitoring group said.

Fifty-four regime fighters had been killed, along with 47 of their opponents, including 33 HTS militants.

Elsewhere in Syria, eight children were among 11 civilians killed in a Turkish artillery attack near a school in Tal Rifaat in Aleppo province. The town, 20km south of the Turkey-Syria border, is the scene of frequent fighting between Turkish-backed forces and Kurdish fighters they view as terrorists.

Most of those killed in the attack were displaced from the Afrin region, which was captured last year by Turkish troops and their Syrian allies. Turkey threatened last year to launch a cross-border offensive to capture Tal Rifaat after taking Afrin from the Kurdish YPG militia.


Palestinians, Arabs ‘must learn lessons of Naksa’

A Palestinian man facing Israeli soldiers waves a national flag during a protest against Israel's plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, near the town of Tulkarm on June 5, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 06 June 2020

Palestinians, Arabs ‘must learn lessons of Naksa’

  • Jordanian MP Kais Zayadin said that the biggest mistake Arab countries made was to trust that the occupying state would make peace and reach a lasting solution to the Palestinian cause

AMMAN: Leading Palestinian and Arab figures have used the 53rd anniversary of Naksa — the displacement and occupation of Arab territories that followed Israel’s victory in the 1967 war against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan — to highlight political mistakes made during and after the conflict.

Adnan Abu-Odeh, political adviser to Jordan's King Hussein and King Abdullah II, told Arab News that Arab countries and the Palestinian leadership had failed to understand the goals of Zionism.

“Governments that participated in the war were naive, expecting a repeat of the 1956 Sinai invasion when the US ordered an Israeli withdrawal. This was followed by the mistaken belief that we could liberate the land using guerrilla warfare," he said.

Anees Sweidan, director-general of foreign relations in the PLO, told Arab News that the Palestinian cause is undergoing a complicated phase where political opportunities are limited.

“The US bias towards Israel and absence of unity has put the Palestinian movement in a difficult situation. It is harder to generate external support and the financial crunch is causing much suffering despite the fact that we have made important accomplishments in the UN and Europe.”

Abdalqader Husseini, chairperson of the Faisal Husseini Foundation, said that the opportunities the anniversary offers should not be ignored.

“We need to realize that this is an illegal occupation that continues to dig deeper and escalate every day to the degree that the international community has lost interest and world conscience has become numb to Israeli practices. We in Jerusalem have not normalized with the occupiers and we have not accepted the new situation as an inescapable reality that we must accept.”

Jordanian MP Kais Zayadin said that the biggest mistake Arab countries made was to trust that the occupying state would make peace and reach a lasting solution to the Palestinian cause.

“We went to Madrid with hope, the Palestinian leadership went to Oslo with optimism that they could reach a phased solution that would lead to statehood. As we remember this Naksa, we must revisit the path that has allowed the occupying entity to steal our land and cause havoc to our people without any deterrence from the international community," he said.

They (Palestinian youth) personify the meaning of steadfastness for dignity, and they have the will to protect our heritage, our identity, and our holy places.”

Mahdi Abdulhadi, head of PASSIA thinktank

Nibal Thawabteh, director of the Bir Zeit University’s Media Development Center, said the biggest mistake since 1967 was focusing on politics and avoiding community development.

"We don’t have a strong sense of citizenship, some have become accustomed to religious Islam. We need to work more on the citizenship.”

Ahmad Awad, director of the Amman-based Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics Studies, said there is a lack of acknowledgment of the reasons behind the Arab loss.

“Political, economic and cultural factors caused our loss, and we feel that most Arab countries have not learned this lesson. Instead of learning, we are going backwards, failing to defend their existential rights, shifting to isolationism as well as cultural and economic regression in our region."

Instead of looking backward, some Palestinians wanted to look forward.

Mahdi Abdulhadi, head of the PASSIA thinktank in Jerusalem, said that Palestinian youth who never felt the shock of the 1967 defeat but have seen the exposure of Arab regimes in the face of the "deal of the century" will prevail.

“They personify the meaning of steadfastness for dignity, and they have the will to protect our heritage, our identity, and our holy places.”

Lily Habash, a Exeter University political science graduate, told Arab News that things look different on the ground.

“The world is changing and Israel uses geopolitical and regional changes to its advantage,” she said.

Dangers today encourage despair but Palestinians will be steadfast in the long term, she added.

“Some say we need a savior to get us out of this dilemma but I believe we need to trust in ourselves and work on all fronts.”