Syrian activists report Russian airstrikes in Idlib province: report

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In this photo released Wednesday Feb. 5, 2020 by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows Syrian government forces entering the village of Tel-Toukan, in Idlib province, northwest Syria. On Thursday, State media and opposition activists said Turkey has sent more reinforcements into northwestern Syria, setting up new positions in an attempt to stop a government offensive on the last rebel stronghold in the war-torn country. (SANA via AP)

Russian warplanes early Wednesday carried out the first airstrikes in three months on the last remaining rebel stronghold in northwestern Syria, opposition activists said, The Associated Press reported. 

There was no immediate word on any casualties.

The activists said the strikes on and near Idlib province were the first to be conducted by Russian planes since a truce brought relative calm to the volatile region in early March.

The truce, brokered by Turkey and Russia, halted a terrifying three-month air and ground campaign that had killed hundreds and sent 1 million people fleeing toward the Turkish border.

Russia is a main backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces, while Turkey supports the opposition. 

In recent years, Moscow and Ankara have become the main power brokers in Syria, shattered by a civil war ongoing since 2011.

Opposition activists said in recent days, both Turkey and the government in Damascus have been sending reinforcements to northwestern Syria. There have also been repeated violations of the truce on the ground in recent weeks.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitoring group, said Russian warplanes targeted rebel-held areas just south of Idlib province late Tuesday and Wednesday morning. 

It had no immediate word on casualties in the four airstrikes.

Idlib-based activist Taher al-Omar said Russian warplanes fired missiles that caused widespread destruction. He also gave no word on casualties.

Another Idlib-based activist, Hadi Abdullah, said Wednesday’s strikes hit a mountain region in Latakia province on the edge of Idlib, and a power station on the northern edge of Hama province.

Idlib, home to some 3 million people, many of them internally displaced, is also a stronghold of the al-Qaeda-linked militant group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, or the Levant Liberation Committee. Turkey has thousands of troops deployed in Idlib.

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