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.

Lebanese burn ruling parties’ offices after night of clashes

Updated 44 min 26 sec ago

Lebanese burn ruling parties’ offices after night of clashes

  • Attacks came just hours after Beirut was rocked by the most violent government crackdown on protesters

BEIRUT: Attackers in northern Lebanon set fire to the offices of two major political parties on Sunday, the state-run National News Agency said.
The assaults came just hours after the capital Beirut was rocked by the most violent government crackdown on protesters since nationwide demonstrations began two months ago. Lebanese security forces fired rubber bullets, tear gas and used water cannons throughout the night to disperse anti-government protesters from the city center — the epicenter of the protest movement in Beirut — and around parliament.
The overnight confrontations in Beirut left more than 130 people injured, according to the Red Cross and the Lebanese Civil Defense.
In the northern Akkar district on Sunday, attackers broke the windows and torched the local office for resigned Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s political party in the town of Kharibet Al-Jindi.
In a separate attack in Akkar district, assailants stormed the local office of the largest party in parliament, affiliated with President Michel Aoun and headed by Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil. Their party said the contents of the office in Jedidat Al-Juma town had also been smashed and burned.
Lebanon is facing one of its worst economic crises in decades, and the protesters accuse the ruling political class in place for three decades of mismanagement and corruption.
The violence comes a day before the president is due to hold talks with different parliamentary blocs to name a new prime minister on Monday.
Interior Minister Raya Al-Hassan on Sunday ordered an investigation into the clashes which she said injured both protesters and security forces. She said she watched the confrontations “with concern, sadness and shock.”
Al-Hassan blamed “infiltrators” for instigating the friction and called on the demonstrators to be wary of those who want to exploit their protests for political reasons. She didn’t elaborate.
Nationwide protests began on Oct. 17, and the government headed by Hariri resigned two weeks later.
Political parties have since been bickering over the shape and form of the new Cabinet. Protesters want a technocratic government, not affiliated with established political parties.
After weeks of back and forth, Hariri has emerged as the likely candidate for the job.