Airstrikes kill 19 civilians in northwest Syria

Members of the Syrian Civil Defense known as White Helmets and locals search for victims in the rubble of a building after a reported Russian airstrike on a popular market in the village of Balyun in Syria's northwestern Idlib province, on December 7, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 08 December 2019

Airstrikes kill 19 civilians in northwest Syria

  • The airstrikes on Idlib province have intensified over the past few weeks

AL-BARA, Syria: Syrian regime and Russian airstrikes on Saturday killed 19 civilians, eight of them children, in the country’s last major opposition bastion, a war monitor said.

The air raids in the rebel-run northwestern region of Idlib also wounded several others, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Airstrikes by regime ally Russia killed four civilians including a child in the village of Al-Bara in the south of the region, the Observatory said.

An AFP correspondent at the scene saw rescue workers pick through the rubble of a two-story home whose concrete roof had collapsed.

Rescuers carried away the body of a victim wrapped in a blanket on a stretcher.

Russian raids also killed nine civilians including three children in the nearby village of Balyun, the Observatory said.

Crude barrel bombs dropped by government helicopters killed five civilians including three children in the village of Abadeeta, also in the same area.

In the southeast of the embattled region, a raid by a regime aircraft killed another child in the village of Bajghas, the Observatory said.

The Britain-based monitor, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria, says it determines the provenance of an airstrike by looking at flight patterns and the aircraft and munitions involved.

The airstrikes on Idlib province have intensified over the past few weeks as the government appears to be preparing for an offensive on rebel-held areas east of the province to secure the main highway that links the capital Damascus with the northern city of Aleppo, Syria’s largest and once commercial center.

The Idlib region, which is home to some 3 million people including many displaced by Syria’s civil war, is controlled by the country’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate.

The Damascus regime has repeatedly vowed to take back control of Idlib.

Bashar Assad’s forces launched a blistering military campaign against the region in April, killing around 1,000 civilians and displacing more than 400,000 people from their homes. A cease-fire announced by Moscow has largely held since late August.

But the Observatory says deadly bombardment and skirmishes have persisted, with more than 200 civilians killed in the region since the deal.

Syria’s war has killed over 370,000 people and displaced millions from their homes since beginning in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-Assad protests.

Earlier, the Observatory and the opposition’s Syrian Civil Defense said four people, including a child and two women, were killed in airstrikes on the opposition-held village of Bara.

The Observatory said five others were killed in the village of Ibdeita and a child in another village nearby.

Different casualty figures are common in the immediate aftermath of violence in Syria, where an eight-year conflict has killed about 400,000 people, wounded more than a million and displaced half the country’s prewar population.

Syrian troops launched a four-month offensive earlier this year on Idlib, which is dominated by al-Qaida-linked militants. The government offensive forced hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee their homes.

A fragile cease-fire halted the government advance in late August but has been repeatedly violated in recent weeks.


Tunisia to repatriate extremists’ children from Libya

Updated 7 min 24 sec ago

Tunisia to repatriate extremists’ children from Libya

  • Six Tunisian children, aged three to 12 years old, along with a dozen others of different nationalities, had for three years been cared for by a charity in Misrata

TRIPOLI: A Tunisian delegation traveled Thursday to Libya’s third city Misrata to repatriate children of extremists killed in 2016 in the North African country, the Libyan Red Crescent said.
Six Tunisian children, aged three to 12 years old, along with a dozen others of different nationalities, had for three years been cared for by the charity in Misrata, east of the capital Tripoli.
They are the children of extremists who were killed in 2016 in the coastal Libyan city of Sirte, a former stronghold the Daesh group.
The Red Crescent said they are expected to be repatriated on Thursday.
A year ago, Tunisian forensic police took DNA samples from the children to confirm their nationality before evacuating them out of Libya.
The pace of the procedure was criticized by NGOs, including Human Rights Watch, which accused Tunisian officials of “dragging their feet” on efforts to repatriate children of Daesh members.
In recent years, Tunisia has been one of the key sources of fighters who headed to conflicts around the world to join ranks with extremist groups.
In 2015, the United Nations said that some 5,000 Tunisians had flocked mainly to Syria and Libya to join the Daesh, while authorities in Tunis gave a lower figure of 3,000.
Many Tunisian fighters who went to Libya joined Daesh in Sirte, which was seized in December 2016 by forces allied to the Tripoli-based UN-recognized Government of National Accord after months of heavy fighting.