Syria, Russia resume Idlib air strikes after scrapping ceasefire

Khan Sheikhun: Damascus and Russia resumed air strikes on Idlib in northwest Syria on Monday, a monitor said, scrapping a ceasefire for the extremist-run bastion and accusing the regime’s opponents of targeting a Russian air base.
The northwestern region, which hosts some three million people, is one of the last major centres of resistance to President Bashar al Assad’s regime after eight years of war.
Damascus said on Thursday it had agreed to a truce from Friday to halt three months of regime and Russian bombardment on the area, which has killed more than 790 civilians and pushed 400,000 people from their homes. But extremists running the region on Saturday refused to comply with a key condition to that truce, declaring they would never withdraw from a planned buffer zone around the area. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said regime air strikes resumed on the region minutes after the truce was cancelled, before Russian planes joined in too.
Russian planes pounded the western edge of the enclave, while aircraft from both sides resumed bombardment of its southern flank, the Britain-based war monitor said.
In the south, an AFP correspondent saw the wind blow plumes of white smoke across the fields after planes and helicopters pounded the town of Khan Sheikhun.
A few families fled the town in cars or trucks piled high with their belongings, women and children perched on top, the correspondent said. Earlier in the afternoon, Syria’s army said it would resume operations against the region.
It accused fighters there of launching a flurry of rockets at the Hmeimim air base near Syria’s Mediterranean coast, causing “great human and material losses” nearby.
The Russian defence ministry said there had been no casualties on the base itself, but that, according to the Syrian security services, rockets fell on a nearby district, “wounding four residents”.
Syria’s military said it was scrapping the truce as “armed terrorist groups, backed by Turkey, refused to abide by the ceasefire and launched many attacks on civilians in surrounding areas”, according to a statement carried by state news agency SANA.
Experts and residents had been sceptical that the truce would hold, citing several previous failed ceasefires. — AFP