BEIRUT: Missile strikes on makeshift oil refineries in northern Syria killed four people and injured more than 20 others, a war monitor said on Saturday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a series of strikes launched from Russian warships and by allied Syrian regime forces hit the makeshift refineries in Aleppo province on Friday night, causing a massive blaze as dozens of tankers caught fire in the area controlled by Turkey and its Syrian rebel proxies.
The Britain-based monitor “documented the deaths of four people, while 24 others sustained various injuries and burns” in the attacks near the towns of Jarablus and Al-Bab.
At least one Syrian rebel was among the dead, said Observatory head Rami Abdul Rahman.
Rescue workers spent hours trying to extinguish the fire which spread to about 180 oil tankers, according to the war monitor.
“The fires are the largest yet from a missile attack on makeshift refineries,” the Observatory said.
Oil installations in Turkey-controlled parts of Aleppo have come under repeated attack in recent months although Moscow and the Syrian regime have not claimed responsibility.
The Observatory reported two such missile attacks last month.
In January, unidentified drones also hit oil refineries in Turkish-held areas of Aleppo, causing a large fire, according to the Observatory.
Syria’s war has killed more than 387,000 people and displaced millions since starting in 2011 with a brutal repression of anti-government protests.
It later evolved into a complex conflict involving jihadists and foreign powers.
Northern neighbor Turkey has seized control of several regions inside Syria in military campaigns against the Daesh group and Kurdish fighters since 2016.
Meanwhile, Syria’s Kurds have handed back 12 children of alleged Daesh members to their mothers from Iraq’s Yazidi minority.
“The children, aged two to five, were all born to Yazidi mothers and fathered by Daesh members. They were handed over to their mothers” on Thursday, said Syrian Kurdish official Zeyneb Saroukhan.
Dozens of Yazidi women and girls survived sex slavery at the hands of Daesh in Syria and have since returned to Iraq, but many were forced to leave their children behind or risk being shunned by their community.
Saroukhan said this was the first time children had been given back to their mothers.
Daesh abducted thousands of Yazidi women and girls from their ancestral Iraqi home of Sinjar in 2014, then enslaved, raped, or married them off by force to terrorists, including in Syria.
US-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters say they have rescued dozens during their years of battles against Daesh that led to their 2019 territorial defeat.
But while the Yazidi community welcomed those survivors back to northern Iraq, that compassion was not extended to their children.
Saroukhan said it had been the Syrian Kurdish authorities’ duty to look after the children until their mothers asked for them.
Yazidi women and children have previously returned from Syria to Iraq, but many of those abducted remain missing.
In May last year, a then 17-year-old Yazidi girl abducted by Daesh returned to Iraq after the coronavirus lockdown in Syria delayed her homecoming.
In 2019, Syria’s Kurds repatriated 25 women and children.