Seven people, including four children, were killed in a Russian airstrike in northwestern Syria, one of five carried out by Vladimir Putin’s air force on the most recent day. murderer in the country for months.
The deaths occurred on Friday near the opposition-held town of Jisr al-Shughur in the rebel enclave of Idlib, where jihadist units and anti-Assad groups barely coexist among more than 4 million people, many of whom are Syrians from elsewhere in the country. .
The attacks took place just days after a summit in Tehran between Russia, Iran and Turkey in which the Syrian war was a central topic. Russia and Turkey are on opposite sides of the conflict, with Putin backing Bashar al-Assad and Ankara backing moves to oust him as leader.
The airstrike followed months of relative calm and fueled speculation that there may have been a Russian message to Turkey as Recep Tayyip Erdoğan continues to talk of a Turkish incursion into northeast Syria.
Putin was left on hold for nearly a minute by his Turkish counterpart during a Monday photo op, embarrassing the Russian leader who has been pushing for a pact ending Ankara’s support for the opposition and putting Idlib under control of Damascus.
Ayhman Mozan, 31, lost his four children in the attack that destroyed his home.
“My children are gone… the people dearest to my heart are gone,” he told AFP, breaking down in tears as he cried out the names of his children.
He and his family were sleeping when the first strike hit their home, he said, lying in a hospital bed in the border town of Darkush.
Russian airstrikes began in northwestern Syria in September 2015 and have since reportedly killed at least 1,400 civilians in attempts to regain control of Idlib on Assad’s behalf.
Russia’s military presence in the country has been reduced as attention has shifted to Putin’s war in Ukraine, but it still maintains Hmeimim air base near Tartus on the Mediterranean coast and controls the skies from Idlib.
In recent years, Russia and Turkey have sometimes come close to direct clashes over Idlib. In January 2020, a Russian airstrike killed more than 30 Turkish soldiers in Syria. However, rather than directly engaging Russian forces, Turkish jets, drones and artillery sacked the Syrian army for three days – as Russian forces watched.
Agence France-Presse contributed to this report