Syria: At least 13 killed in Idlib air attack

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Idlib province is home to some three million people, many of whom are at risk due to the ongoing violence [File: Khalil Ashawi/Reuters]

France has called for an immediate end to fighting in the Syrian city of Idlib after an air attack killed at least 13 people in a nearby town.

The French foreign ministry, known as the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, on Friday said that it condemned in particular air attacks on refugee camps.

The suspected Russian attack on Friday hit the town of Hass in the south of Idlib province, where people displaced by the violence had congregated. At least 13 people were killed, including a number of children, according to several monitors and the White Helmets civil defence group.

Earlier on Friday, a separate air attack by government forces killed two and injured 23 others, Mustafa Haj Youssef, director of the White Helmets told Anadolu news agency.

Syrian troops have been on the offensive in Idlib and its surroundings – the last major rebel stronghold in Syria – since late April in a Russia-backed campaign. Fighting has picked up in recent days, after a short-lived ceasefire.

Over the past week, the Syrian army has advanced towards the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province in a pincer movement that could encircle the southern part of the rebel enclave.

Syrians celebrate Eid amid bombing (2:32)

The United Nations and aid agencies have warned of a new humanitarian catastrophe in northwestern Syria. President Bashar al-Assad's forces have managed to retake most of the country, crushing rebel enclaves in all the major cities and driving them from the south.

Idlib and the surrounding rebel-held area is home to some three million people, many of whom were displaced in other battles around the war-torn country.

In the last week, during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, some 124,000 civilians were displaced in northern Syria.

Mohammad Halaj, director of the Civil Response Coordinators Association in northern Syria, told Anadolu that the majority of the displaced people fled amid fears of a siege on Khan Sheikhoun.

A buffer zone deal brokered by Russia and Turkey last year was supposed to protect the Idlib region's inhabitants from an all-out regime offensive, but it was never fully implemented.

Further shelling

Separately on Friday, Syrian state media reported that the country's air defences had responded to a "hostile target" and destroyed the missile before it reached a central Syrian town.

The SANA news agency said that the projectile had entered Syrian airspace overnight from Lebanon's airspace, heading towards the town of Masyaf in Hama province.

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According to The Associated Press, the report suggested, without saying outright, that the missile had been fired by Israel, which has carried out attacks against Iran-and-Hezbollah-linked targets inside Syria in the past but rarely confirms them.

There was no immediate comment from Israel.

Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011 when the al-Assad government cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.

Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million others displaced, at home and abroad, according to the UN.

Is the world ignoring Syria's war?

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Is the world ignoring Syria's war?

SOURCE: News agencies

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