http://diyaruna.com/en_GB/articles/cnmi_di/features/2019/05/14/feature-03

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Human Rights |

Russian strike hits White Helmets base in Idlib

By Waleed Abu al-Khair in Cairo

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Workers inspect the civil defence building in the Idlib province city of Kafr Nabl after it was bombed by Russian warplanes. [Photo courtesy of Syrian Civil Defence]

A Russian airstrike on Monday (May 13th) destroyed a Syrian civil defence (White Helmets) building in the Idlib city of Kafr Nabl, a local activist said.

A number of White Helmet vehicles also were destroyed in the strike, Idlib activist Musab Assaf told Diyaruna.

There were no casualties as a result of the strike, as the rescue workers were not in the building at the time, he said.

The facility was targeted twice within a few minutes, he said, which would appear to indicate the intent was to knock it out of service.

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Syrian Liberation Front fighters prepare for the battle for the Hama province village of al-Hammamiyat. [Photo circulated on social media]

"Two high-explosive missiles hit the centre" just minutes after its personnel had headed out to the site of strikes in a nearby village, Oneida Zikra, the civil defence chief for the area, told AFP.

Airstrikes targeted the city of Kafr Nabl with particular brutality, and struck a number of civilian homes, Assaf said, causing a high number of civilian casualties.

The number of dead and wounded has not yet been ascertained because of the state of panic and turmoil prevailing in the area, he added.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 42 fighters had been killed in 24 hours from Sunday to Monday in clashes in the area of Jabal al-Akrad in Latakia province, near the border with Idlib province.

Counterattack launched

Armed groups in rural Idlib and Hama launched a counterattack against the Syrian regime and allied militias in areas these forces had entered a few days before, Assaf said.

Fighters from the Syrian Liberation Front, Tahrir al-Sham, Jaish al-Azza and Jaish al-Nasr were observed mounting an attack on the Hama province village of al-Hammamiyat, he said.

Sources said these groups entered the village and the Syrian army withdrew from it and from a hill outside the village, Assaf said.

The armed groups also managed to enter the village of al-Jibeen, he added.

Fierce fighting is ongoing in many areas, he said, including Horsh al-Karakat in northern rural Hama and areas around the towns of Kernaz and al-Janabra near the strategic town of Kafr Nabudah.

These areas fell into the hands of regime forces last week.

Fierce fighting also took place in the areas of Tal Meleh and Tal Othman, where Syrian Liberation Front forces backed by tanks were observed carrying out heavy shelling to pave the way for their entry into the area.

Military escalation 'must stop'

On Monday, the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said 18 health facilities in the area had been knocked out of service in about two weeks, AFP reported.

"Attacks on health facilities in north-west Syria continue to exact a devastating toll on the civilian population," said OCHA spokesman for Syria David Swanson.

"Such violence is appalling. Hospitals are and must remain a place of sanctuary and unequivocal neutrality," he said.

In a joint statement on Monday, Britain, France and Germany said the military escalation in north-western Syria "must stop".

"The current brutal offensive by the Syrian regime and its backers on millions of civilians living in the area is not about fighting terrorism. It is about pushing forward the ruthless reconquest by the regime," they said.

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