Assad regime attacks intensify in Syria’s Idlib

Assad regime attacks intensify in Syria’s Idlib

Assad regime attacks intensify in Syria’s Idlib

Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime has escalated its air strikes on Idlib in the war-hit country’s northwest, amid reports on chemical weapon use.           

Six civilians were killed when the regime forces attacked Syria’s northwestern de-escalation zones with white phosphorus bombs, forbidden as weapon, sources with the White Helmets civil defense agency said yesterday, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency.

The overnight attacks targeted Idlib province’s towns of Kafr Nabl and Khan Sheykhun as well as the villages of Armanaya, Fatterah, Tramla, Deir Sunbul, Hass and Hobait, the sources reportedly said.

Regime forces also attacked the towns of Kafr Nabudah, Ltamenah and Kafr Zita in Hama province, the sources said.

Some 1.5 million people currently reside in Idlib, half are displaced from other parts of the war-torn country.

Turkey and Russia agreed last September to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression would be expressly prohibited.

Reports ‘consistent’ with chemical exposure

Yesterday’s attacks follow several others last week reported similarly by the White Helmets in Idlib. The civil defense agency had said on May 20 that 12 civilians were killed by regime forces in de-escalation zones, another 12 on May 22 and another six on May 23.

The U.S. State Department said last week it has received numerous reports that appear consistent with chemical exposure after an attack by Syrian government forces in northwest Syria, but it has made no definitive conclusion as to whether they used chemical weapons.

“We do have numerous sources including interviews with those present during the attack that did report that a number of opposition fighters were taken to local hospitals and presented symptoms that were consistent with chemical exposure,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told reporters on May 23.

The department warned that Washington and its allies would respond “quickly and appropriately” if this were proven.

“We know of course that this is a pattern of behavior, unfortunately, by the Assad regime, but we don’t have any definitive conclusions yet as we continue to investigate,” Ortagus said.

Syria’s government denies using chemical weapons.

Ortagus said the location of the reported attacks were “at the front lines, so it does make access to that site limited.”

The Trump administration has twice bombed Syria over Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons, in April 2017 and April 2018.

Assad launched an offensive at the end of April on Idlib and parts of adjacent provinces, saying insurgents had broken a truce.