Syrian govt airstrike kills rescue volunteers in Idlib

BEIRUT: Three rescue volunteers were killed on Thursday when their ambulance was hit by Syrian government jets in a rebel-held area in the north-western province of Idlib, a health charity said.
“Warplanes directly targeted one of our ambulances in the area of Maaret al Numan, where our emergency paramedics were on duty and providing crucial rescue assistance to those affected by the attacks. As a result of the attack, three of our volunteers were killed,” the aid group, Violet, said in a statement.
The organisation said two other volunteers were also wounded in the attack, with one of them having
his arm amputated due to a serious injury.
Violet accused the Syrian government of violating international humanitarian laws and announced that out of respect for the dead its volunteers would suspend their work until Monday.
“Violet, as a humanitarian organisation, strongly condemns the targeting and attack on health facilities, ambulances and humanitarian workers,” the statement said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a watchdog monitoring violence in the country, confirmed the attack and said additional strikes had targeted areas in the southern countryside of Idlib, killing 11 other people including children.
Local activists, meanwhile, said 10 people were injured when government warplanes bombed the village of Mastoumeh on the outskirts of Idlib.
Pictures posted online by activists from showed injured children and old people being rushed to an Idlib hospital covered with dust purportedly after the strikes.
So far, there has been no comment form the government.
In April, forces of Syrian President Bashar al Assad, supported by Russian air power, launched a massive campaign against rebels in the provinces of Hama and Idlib, the last major opposition strongholds in the war-torn country.
The Observatory has put the civilian death toll in Idlib and Hama since the end of April at 473 people, including 115 children.
The escalation has also displaced more than 300,000 people, according to the Britain-based watchdog.
The violence has shattered a truce deal reached in September between Russian and Turkey, a supporter of some rebel groups, to establish a demilitarised buffer zone in the Idlib enclave. — dpa