Russia, al-Assad step up the bombing of Syria amid the world’s focus on the Israel-Gaza war | News

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Idlib, Syria – Syrian government forces and Russia have stopped bombing northwest Syria, killing dozens of people, including children, and injuring hundreds more, opposition leaders and emergency volunteers have said, during when Israel’s war on Gaza holds the world’s attention.

Russian and Syrian attacks in October focused on cities and towns in the countryside of Idlib and Aleppo. As a result of this escalation, a total of 66 civilians died, including 23 children and 13 women, and it left more than 270 people injured, with 79 children and 47 women among the casualties, according to the Syrian volunteer emergency rescue group.

While the pace of air and artillery bombardment in northwestern Syria has decreased since the beginning of November, Syrian regime forces have shifted their focus to targeting civilian vehicles using guided missiles.

The Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets, said that from the beginning of this year until November 8, its teams responded to 17 guided missile attacks by government forces. As a result of these attacks, four civilians died, including a White Helmets volunteer, and 15 civilians were injured, including two children.

Idlib is the last rebel-held region in Syria, governed by a ceasefire agreement between Turkey and Russia since March 5, 2020. However, Syrian government forces continue to violate the agreement this from time to time.

“The military escalation by the al-Assad regime, the Russians, and the Iranians against civilians in northern Syria did not stop for one day, but it tightens and weakens from time to time based on circumstances international, regional and local,” said Mustafa al-Bakour, who is the head of Syrian opposition groups in northwestern Syria, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Al-Bakour told Al Jazeera that Russia and the Syrian regime took advantage of the world’s interest in the escalation of the war in Gaza in northwestern Syria, aiming to put pressure on Turkey and opposition groups. Syria regarding issues such as the opening of the international road between Syria and Turkey. The M4 and the M5 are among the most important roads for international trade in Syria, serving as a transport link connecting the country to Northern Europe, South Asia and the Arabian Gulf.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the recent escalation has driven more than 120,000 civilians from their cities and villages to shelters and camps near the Syrian border. and Turkey.

“According to the facts on the ground, I do not believe that the conditions are suitable now or even in the near future for any military action on either side,” al-Bakour said. refusing to continue shelling operations by al-Assad and Russian forces on civilians in liberated northern Syria.”

On November 6, the Russian news agency Interfax quoted Admiral Vadim Kulit, deputy director of the Russian Coordination Center in Syria, as saying that the Russian air forces carried out flights on a drone warehouse in the Idlib region, which was allegedly used for attacks on Syria. government controlled sites. Al-Bakour denied to Al Jazeera the Russian accusations of Syrian opposition groups possessing drones.

Military base and strategic advantages

Since its military intervention in Syria in 2015, Russia has tried to establish several military bases on the territory of its allies, including the Hmeimim Air Base in the country of Latakia, as well as naval base in Tartus, the only Russian deployment in the Mediterranean.

“Russian intervention in Syria was not out of love for the regime of Bashar al-Assad but to obtain strategic assets that were previously beyond Russia’s reach, such as a military presence in the Middle East and, to in particular, having a naval base in the Mediterranean Sea to monitor NATO. movements of forces,” said Turki Mustafa, a political analyst and historian based in Idlib.

Mustafa told Al Jazeera that Russia regularly claims, when it bombards cities and towns in northwestern Syria, to fight “terrorism”, but in reality , it aims to draw attention to itself as a major regional and international player, even at civilian expense. . “I refuse Russia to launch a ground military campaign in northwestern Syria, because Moscow needs Ankara and its strategic role in several files, especially the Ukrainian file,” Mustafa said.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights has documented the killing of around 7,000 civilians, including 2,046 children and 978 women, by Russian forces alone since the start of their military intervention in Syria to support al-Assad regime eight years ago.

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