Russia accuses US of risking Idlib ceasefire

Russia accuses US of risking Idlib ceasefire

Russia accuses US of risking Idlib ceasefire

Russia’s military said the United States had mounted air strikes in Syria’s Idlib without forewarning Moscow or Ankara, endangering a ceasefire there, Russian news agencies reported on Sept. 1. 

The strikes without a heads-up in the “de-escalation zone” breached previous agreements and caused several casualties, TASS news agency cited the Russian defense ministry as saying.

It said Russian and Syrian warplanes had fully suspended raids against rebel in Idlib province in northwest Syria, after declaring a ceasefire that started on Aug. 31 morning.

On Aug. 31, the U.S. Central Command, part of the Department of Defense, said U.S. forces struck an al-Qaeda facility in Idlib in an attack aimed at the organization’s leadership. U.S. air strikes have at times hit targets linked to al-Qaeda in northwest Syria in recent years.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the air strikes had pounded bases belonging to jihadists near the town of Maarat Misrin on Aug. 31. 

The UK-based monitor said more than 40 militants, including some commanders, were killed.

Interfax news agency cited Russia’s military as saying the strikes had hit between Maarat Misrin and Kefraya village.

While artillery hit parts of Idlib in the past 24 hours, there was a lull in air strikes that had been pounding the region in recent weeks, the Observatory, a rebel official and rescue workers have said.

It was the second such ceasefire declared in the past month in Idlib, which is in Syria’s northwest corner - the only big chunk of the country still in rebel hands. A truce in early August collapsed three days in, after which the Russian-backed army pressed its offensive and gained ground.

Turkey, which backs rebel factions, and Russia, Assad’s key ally, brokered a “de-escalation” deal in 2017 that sought to curb fighting in Idlib.

Under its deals with Russia and Iran, Turkey’s military has a dozen posts in the Idlib region.