Russian, regime attacks on Syria’s northwest continue, no casualties

Forces of the Bashar Assad regime and its backer Russia once again attacked Syria’s northwest on Sunday. No casualties have been reported.

Russia and the regime targeted the village of Tadel in the western countryside of Aleppo province with artillery shelling, the White Helmets civil defense group said.

“Our teams inspected the bombing sites and made sure that there were no civilian casualties,” the group wrote on Twitter.

Russia joined Syria’s now 10-year conflict in September 2015, when the regime military appeared close to collapse. Moscow has since helped tip the balance of power in favor of Assad, whose forces now control much of the country. Hundreds of Russian troops are deployed across Syria, and they also have a military air base along Syria’s Mediterranean coast.

During the past few years, Russian warplanes targeted the areas under the control of the Syrian opposition, initially launching attacks from Hemeimeem Air Base in the west of the country.

Human rights organizations have published several reports accusing Russia of the death of tens of thousands of civilians in Syria since its intervention in 2015, while the international community has taken some actions against the Russia-backed Assad regime’s war crimes.

Russia is the main ally of the Syrian regime, while Turkey supports groups that have fought to unseat Bashar Assad. However, Russian and Turkish troops have cooperated in Idlib, the final holdout of opposition forces, and in seeking a political solution in the war-torn country.

Turkey and Russia discussed the developments in Syria’s northwest most recently during a visit of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to the Black Sea resort Sochi.

Furthermore, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu held follow-up talks on the issue with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Serbia on Monday.

A recent 36-page report published by the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) stated that Russia caused the deaths of 6,910 civilians including more than 2,000 children since it intervened in the conflict while it has targeted 1,231 vital facilities, including hospitals.

It underlined that Russia has been supporting the regime since 2011 through providing military advice, weapons or using its veto in the U.N. Security Council.

“Russia has used its veto 16 times in favor of the Syrian regime,” the SNHR pointed out.

“Russian support for the Syrian regime has extended to various fields, including justifying the regime’s use of chemical weapons, questioning the reports of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, exploiting cross-border humanitarian aid, and harnessing media to promote propaganda in favor of the Syrian regime,” it added.

Fadel Abdul Ghany, director of the SNHR, was quoted in the report as saying: “There will be no stability in Syria and no return of refugees with the survival of the current Syrian regime, so support for it must end, and pressure must be put on it to reach a genuine political transition.”

The report further noted that Russia has been openly using Syria as a testing ground for its weapons.

In July, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that his country tested over 320 types of weapons in its operations in Syria.

Russian forces have killed 70 medical personnel to date, including 12 women, in addition to 44 Civil Defense personnel as well as 24 media workers, the report stated.

The 1,231 attacks on vital civilian include 222 attacks on schools, 207 attacks on medical facilities and 60 attacks on markets.

Most of these attacks target Aleppo and the last opposition bastion, Idlib.

The Idlib region is home to nearly 3 million people, two-thirds of them displaced from other parts of the country.

Nearly 75% of the total population in the opposition-held Idlib region depends on humanitarian aid to meet their basic needs as 1.6 million people continue to live in camps or informal settlements, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

For years, the Assad regime has ignored the needs and safety of the Syrian people, only eyeing further gains of territory and crushing the opposition. With this aim, the regime has for years bombed civilian facilities such as schools, hospitals and residential areas, causing the displacement of almost half of the country’s population.

The situation of the people in Idlib worsened when the Assad regime, backed by Russia, launched an offensive on the province, causing the largest one-time displacement in the history of the Syrian civil war and a huge humanitarian tragedy, according to the U.N.

Frequent bombings and shelling have led to nearly 50% of health facilities being out of service, just as the Syrian people need them the most amid the coronavirus pandemic. Living in overcrowded tent camps or even out in the open in safe areas near the Turkish border, many are struggling to meet even basic needs.

The Idlib de-escalation zone was forged under an agreement between Turkey and Russia. The area has been the subject of multiple cease-fire agreements, which have been frequently violated by the Assad regime and its allies.

A fragile truce was brokered between Moscow and Ankara in March 2020 in response to months of fighting by the Russia-backed regime. Almost a million people have fled the Bashar Assad regime’s offensive yet the regime still frequently carries out attacks on civilians, hindering most from returning to their homes and forcing them to stay in makeshift camps.

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