‘It looks like the end of the world’: Russia bombards rebel zones in Syria

Intense air strikes by Russia, an ally of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, have targeted the rebel-held Idlib region in northwestern Syria since June 20. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), air strikes on June 25 killed at least 13 people, including children, and one attack hit a fruit and vegetable market near Idlib. The SOHR considers these strikes to be the deadliest since the beginning of the year. Our Observer, an Idlib resident, documented their impact through videos.

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Russian warplanes launched seven strikes on June 27 on the outskirts of the village of Serjah in the Jabal Zawiya region, south of Idlib, according to the SOHR. The group did not detail whether the strikes caused any casualties.

The day before, our Observer, Muhammad (not his real name), sent the FRANCE 24 Observers team a video showing him and his daughter in the village of Jabal Zawiya, devastated by consecutive attacks. 

Our Observer sent us this video of his neighbourhood in Jabal Zawiya, devastated by airstrikes, on June 27.

These air strikes are part of an upsurge in Russian attacks in Idlib and neighbouring Latakia since June 20.

Nine civilians, including two children, were killed and 30 people wounded during an air raid on a market on June 25 in Jisr al-Shughur, near the Turkish border. 

“They were farmers who had come to sell their harvest […]. The attack took place in the run-up to Eid al Adha [celebrated on July 1 in the Muslim world],” explains a member of the Syria Civil Defence, or “White Helmets”, in the video below. 

Three rebel fighters were killed in these strikes on June 25.

‘The locals are used to it. They take shelter in underground tunnels, then go back to their homes or tents’

Our Observer Muhammad has been documenting the Russian strikes in the Jabal Zawiya region. He travels by moped, often accompanied by his three-year-old daughter. He lives just a few kilometres from the front lines between rebel fighters and Syrian regime forces and their allies, including Iranian militias. 

Since Saturday, June 24, the air strikes have intensified. It looks like the end of the world. Sukhoi 24 and Sukhoi 29 aircraft. These planes usually carry out strikes with cluster bombs and thermobaric bombs. I counted 20 explosions. 

A resident films a Russian strike on Jisr al-Shughur market on sunday, June 25.

Cluster munitions are banned by an international convention, to which Russia is not party. As for the thermobaric bomb, its impact is considered far more devastating than that of conventional weapons.

The war has been going on for 12 years. The locals are used to it. They take shelter in underground tunnels, then go back to their homes or tents when the calm returns. 

Some have dug holes in vacant lots and farmland to hide out in during the bombardments. 

Video showing the arrival of an ambulance at the Jisr al-Shughur market, June 25.

Russian forces carried out the strikes in Idlib province in retaliation for rebel drone attacks that killed four civilians, including two children last week, SOHR reported.

Part of Idlib province and small portions of the neighbouring provinces of Hama, Aleppo and Latakia are controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTC), the former Syrian branch of al Qaeda.

Over 6 million internally displaced persons

Since March 2020, the region has been under a ceasefire that is regularly interrupted. 

Russia, Syria’s ally for decades, is the main supporter of Bashar al-Assad’s regime and has been intervening militarily in the country since 2015.

According to the SOHR, the war in Syria has claimed more than half a million lives and forced several million people to move.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), around 1.6 million people living in Idlib today are internally displaced, representing half of the province’s residents. In total, the country counted nearly 6.7 million IDPs at the end of 2021, the most in the world.

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