Iraq News

First civilian killed in Russian raid on north-west Syria since March



Displaced Syrians sit in the back of a truck loaded with belongings as they flee along the M4 highway in Ariha in the opposition-held north-western Syrian province of Idlib, on June 8th, heading north. [Abdulaziz Ketaz/AFP]

Russian airstrikes on north-western Syria killed a civilian Tuesday (June 9th), the first such fatality since a ceasefire went into force three months ago, a war monitor said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Russian warplanes launched around 15 pre-dawn strikes on towns and villages in Idlib province.

The raids led to the death of one civilian in the village of Balyun -- the "first to die from an airstrike" since the March ceasefire, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.

Home to around three million people, the Idlib region is Syria's last major opposition bastion after nine years of devastating civil war.

A Russian-backed government offensive between December and March displaced nearly a million people in the region.

A truce reached on March 6th has largely halted the fighting but President Bashar al-Assad has vowed to retake full control of the region.

Russia resumed airstrikes earlier this month and on Monday hit parts of Idlib and neighbouring Hama provinces with dozens of airstrikes, the Observatory said.

Regime rolls back attack

On Monday, an al-Qaeda offshoot led an offensive against regime forces in north-west Syria, sparking clashes that left 19 pro-government fighters and 22 extremists dead.

Extremist factions "led by Hurras al-Din launched an assault on two villages in Sahl al-Ghab", a region of the central province of Hama, the Observatory said.

They briefly seized the villages of al-Fatatra and al-Manara, but regime forces took them back just hours later amid Russian airstrikes and intense shelling, Abdel Rahman said.

The country's official SANA news agency also reported the attack on "two Syrian army positions", saying it involved "explosive-rigged vehicles and suicide bombers".

Citing a military source, it said the situation was now under control after the extremists were forced to pull out under regime fire.

Hurras al-Din is a relatively small but powerful armed group led by al-Qaeda loyalists.

It is a rival of Tahrir al-Sham, an alliance of extremist factions dominated by former members of al-Qaeda's ex-Syria affiliate al-Nusra Front -- although the two groups co-operate at times.

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