Dozens killed as Russian, Syrian air attacks in Idlib intensify

Syrian government forces and their Russian allies had intensified their air offensive on the country’s rebel-held northwest for a fifth consecutive day in a widening campaign, killing and wounding dozens and forcing thousands to flee their homes.

After an overnight lull, government and Russian warplanes escalated bombings on Saturday hitting rebel areas in Idlib and the neighboring province of Hama, aid workers in the area said.

The Syrian military sent new reinforcements towards Idlib, including tanks, armored personnel carriers and hundreds of troops on Saturday.

The official SANA news agency said the army had destroyed “jihadist” positions in southern Idlib and nearby Hama province in response to what it called repeated violations of a de-escalation agreement.

But the UN humanitarian coordinator said schools, health facilities and residential areas have been hit and the government forces are employing the worst barrel bombing in at least 15 months.

Barrel bombs are containers packed with explosives dropped from helicopters.

“Now, the bombing has returned and is much heavier and has spread very widely in Jabal al-Zawiya and rural northern Hama,” Ahmad al-Dbis, safety and security manager for the US-based Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations (UOSSM), told Reuters News Agency.

“The planes are not stopping at all and the bombing is continuing in a very big way like yesterday and worse,” al-Dbis added.

The recent upsurge in violence is the most serious in Idlib since Russia and Turkey negotiated a ceasefire in September.

In a photo released by Syrian military a SyAAF Su-24M2 is shown dropping 10 FAB-100 general-purpose bombs at terrorist positions in Northern Hamah.

The Su-24M2 variant was upgraded with an SVP-24 aerial munition targeting system, which in turn allows the Su-24 to use General Purpose Bombs with very high accuracy.