Cease-fire violation leads to 30 civilian deaths in regime-led attacks in Idlib

Published 05.02.2019 00:07

The Bashar Assad regime and Iran-backed militias have been continuing attacks in Idlib's de-escalation zone despite the Sochi deal between Turkey and Russia.

Thirty civilians lost their lives in air and ground attacks in January while over 180 civilians were wounded.

According to Anadolu Agency, the White Helmets in Idlib, Hama and Latakia reported that last month some 19 civilians died including two children and three women while over 85 people were wounded. In Hama nine civilians were killed and 86 injured. It was also reported that in Latakia two civilians died in attacks and nine civilians were wounded.

Popularly known as the White Helmets, the Syrian Civil Defense group is active in opposition-held areas in Syria, which has been locked in a devastating civil war since early 2011, when the Bashar Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin agreed in September 2018, following their talks in Sochi, to establish a demilitarized zone in Idlib in order to decrease tension and prevent a new conflict in the province.

The deal was internationally praised as it prevented a humanitarian disaster that would have been inevitable if a comprehensive operation by the regime was conducted. In line with the Sochi agreement, opposition forces withdrew their heavy weapons on Oct. 10. Yet, the regime continues its assault on the region disrupting stability there.

According to media reports, plans to eliminate the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) terrorist organization will be on the table in the upcoming Sochi meeting. For that purpose, one of three scenarios will play out in eliminating the HTS: Forcing HTS to leave Idlib, demilitarization in the region or offering militants a chance to return to their home countries.

Reports also suggested that there are three main factions within the terrorist organization based on the origins of the militants, including those from eastern Turkistan, the Caucasus and North Africa. The eastern Turkistan group is reportedly against plans of leaving weapons. Those who will refuse demilitarization may be faced with a military offensive.

With the increasing violations of the regime, the civilians who returned to Idlib have started to leave the area again, heading toward the Turkish border.

The head of the Syria Intervention Coordinators Mohammed Hallac told Anadolu Agency that thousands of civilians, who came back to southern Idlib, have been returning to the areas close to the Turkish border. He added that 16,549 families (76,427 civilians) have migrated from the rural areas of south and southeast Idlib and northern Hama.

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