Al-Jadidah, Syria – Seven civilians, including four children from the same family, were killed in a Russian airstrike in Syria’s opposition-held northern province of Idlib, according to the Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the name of White Helmets, as well as family members and medical personnel.
Friday’s attack on the village of al-Jadidah, near the town of Jisr al-Shughour, also injured 12 other people, including eight children.
The attack is the first of its kind in months and has disrupted the relative calm the area, which sits far from the region’s front lines, has enjoyed recently.
A local observer told Al Jazeera that two Russian Su-34 planes targeted the area with four aerial attacks in the early hours of the morning. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said Russian aircraft carried out four strikes.
Munir al-Mustafa, the White Helmets deputy director, said the group’s teams in the area found seven bodies and transferred 12 injured to a local hospital, adding that the attacks hit a chicken farm and the house of a displaced family on the outskirts of al-Jadidah.
“It took nearly three hours to dig the victims out from under the rubble, with Russian planes still flying overhead, and the possibility of them targeting rescue teams,” al-Mustafa told Al Jazeera.
Ahmed al-Khatib, a surgeon at the local hospital in al-Qaniyah village, confirmed that the hospital had received 12 injured people, mostly children, and that seven people had died, including the four children, who had between one and seven years. year.
The four bodies of the children, two girls and two boys, lay on the hospital floor wrapped in blankets, the girls’ hair still tied back in red knots.
The family members of the victims could not believe what had happened.
One of the children’s relatives sat in tears next to their bodies, struggling to understand why the attack had taken place.
“What did those little children do?” Were these sleeping children terrorists? asked the man, who did not give his name, while also calling for justice.
Ahmed Abdul Hayy, a 36-year-old man from the government-controlled province of Hama, said his house was hit and some family members were killed in the attack.
“We were trying to find a safe place for our children and our families, but the third strike hit my house directly and killed my nephew and injured three of my children,” Abdul Hayy told Al Jazeera, who said the youngest child injured was only two and a half. “It was a terrifying experience, it was very difficult to see my children injured. The minutes it took to transfer them to the hospital lasted for hours.
“We moved here from Hama because it’s relatively safe because the people are Christians, but it seems that Russia and [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad kills everyone on the opposite side,” Abdul Hayy added.
The United Nations deputy regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syrian crisis, Mark Cutts, condemned the attack.
“Parties to the conflict have a responsibility to ensure that civilians are protected,” Cutts said. “Attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure must stop.”
Syrian government attacks in Idlib have focused on the Jabal al-Zawiyah area in the south of the province.
In recent weeks, the intensity of shelling has increased between government and opposition forces on the front lines in Idlib, and a recent attempt by government forces to advance in Maarat al-Naasan, is from Idlib.
The escalation in violence comes as Turkey continues to insist that it will carry out a military operation against the predominantly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces, despite opposition from the Syrian government, as well as Russia and Israel. Iran.
A 2011 uprising in Syria turned into a war after the government responded violently to the country’s protest movement.
Russian intervention alongside the government in 2015 turned the tide of the conflict, with Idlib now the only province largely held by the opposition.
The war has killed more than 300,000 civilians, according to the UN.