Russian air raids ‘kill five children’ in Syria’s Idlib

At least 10 civilians killed in Russian air attack on town of Kafranbel, Idlib province, say activists and a monitor.

Air attacks by Syrian government ally Russia have killed 10 civilians, including five children, in an opposition-held province in northwest Syria, activists and a monitor have said, hours after Moscow announced a ceasefire.

The Russian army said the air raids overnight Sunday on the town of Kafranbel, in Idlib province, came after it pinpointed the area as the launchpad for rocket fire on its key Syria airbase of Hmeimim.

The Hay’et Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) armed group, a former al-Qaeda affiliate, controls a large part of Idlib province as well as parts of neighbouring Aleppo, Hama and Latakia provinces.

Last September, Russia and Turkey, which backs some armed groups in the region, agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression would be expressly prohibited.

The Syrian government and its allies, however, have launched a number of attacks inside the de-escalation zone since late April, prompting the UN to warn of a potential humanitarian crisis unfolding in the region.

The Syria Civil Defence organisation, also known as the White Helmets, said five children were among 10 civilians killed in air raids overnight Sunday in Kafranbel, while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported the same death toll, which it said included four women and one man.

The raids hit near a hospital in the town, knocking it out of service, the Britain-based monitor said.

An AFP correspondent saw five homes on the edges on the town that were destroyed or damaged after the attacks.

Survivors picked through the debris to save the belongings they could, the reporter said, while a young man covered in dust from head to toe leant against a wall in shock, after his father was killed.

Umm Wasel narrowly missed the air raid on her home after relatives invited her over to break her daily fast of the Islamic month of Ramadan with them.

“I came back at night to find my home devastated,” said the 72-year-old, dressed in a long red robe and a black scarf covering her hair.

People “had thought I was under the rubble”, she said.