Syrians hit the streets early yesterday to protest regime attacks on a refugee camp in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib, despite a cease-fire and the de-militarized zone set up by Ankara and Moscow.
Following the attacks late Wednesday night, nearly 100 civilians living in northern Syria's Azaz and Al-Bab poured out onto the streets to protest the attacks, the regime and its backer, Russia.
The protesters carried slogans, some written on foreign bank notes, reading: "Russian's project is to ensure the Assad regime's continuity, to kill the opposition," "The guarantor (Russia) hits Hreitan, Hayyan, Anadan, Kafr Amim, Temaniye, Saraqib, and Khan Shaykhun to control customs routes " and "the whole world has a part in the murders of Syrians, destruction of the country and forced displacement of people," were among the protester's slogans.
At 11 p.m. on Wednesday, regime forces targeted civilians in the de-escalation zone in attacks on the Temaniye neighborhood of Idlib using internationally banned white phosphorus weapons. Shortly after two civilians were killed, 19 were injured by Russian airstrikes targeting a refugee camp in Idlib, while the regime conducted ground attacks on Anadan, Hreitan and Kafr Hamrah in western Aleppo province.
Local sources reported that fighter aircraft belonging to Russian forces targeted a refugee camp near the Kafar Amim village, east of the Saraqib district, situated inside the Idlib de-escalation zone." A Russian SU-34 fighter took off from Hmeimim Air Base (in Syria's Latakia province) and attacked from midnight to around 4 a.m.," an observatory belonging to the Syrian opposition forces said on social media.
Mustafa Haj Yousuf, head of the White Helmets in Idlib, told Anadolu Agency (AA) that regime forces deployed in Abu Dali village in Hama province and Iran-backed paramilitary groups attacked southern Idlib with white phosphorus bombs, an internationally banned weapon.
"The attack was carried out twice, as some 40 bombs loaded with white phosphorus were dropped," Haj Yousuf said.
The airstrikes killed 15 civilians in Syria's Idlib, the White Helmets civil defense agency said yesterday.
The regime and its supporters have violated the Sochi agreement that banned heavy weaponry in the demilitarized zone to prevent grave causalities numerous times. Since the deal was inked in September, at least 126 civilians have lost their lives in attacks by the regime and its allies, also leaving more than 380 civilians injured. A new refugee crisis is not just a concern for Turkey but would also have implications for Europe. An estimated 700,000 people may arrive in Turkey, possibly attempting to go to Europe.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar held a phone call with his U.S. counterpart Patrick M. Shanahan. They discussed the latest developments in Syria and bilateral defense ties.
The U.N.-sponsored Astana talks between Russia, Iran and Turkey had established four de-escalation zones in the northwestern province of Idlib, north of the central city of Homs, the Eastern Ghouta area outside Damascus and in the southern provinces of Deraa and Quneitra. The partial cease-fire, however, was short-lived as regime forces backed by Russia and Iran recaptured three of the areas through heavy bombardments, leaving Idlib as the last stronghold of the opposition. The Assad regime was signaling a grand offensive toward Idlib, home to 3 million people, but a Turkish and Russian intervention prevented the offensive. On Sept. 17, 2018, both countries agreed to implement a demilitarized zone between the opposition forces and the regime forces, warding off a possible humanitarian disaster.
Meanwhile, Turkish security forces spoke to NTV, denying that Turkey and Russia coordinated an airstrike on Idlib. Russian news agency Ria previously announced that Ankara and Moscow coordinated an attack targeting the arsenal of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) terrorist group due to the group's previous drone attack on a Russian airbase in Syria.