Monday 22 July 2019 - 12:30

Air raid on busy market in northwest Syria kills several

Story Code : 806390
An air raid has killed at least 16 people in a popular marketplace in a rebel-held town in northwest Syria [Izeddin Idilbi/Anadolu Agency]
An air raid has killed at least 16 people in a popular marketplace in a rebel-held town in northwest Syria [Izeddin Idilbi/Anadolu Agency]

An air raid has hit a busy market in a rebel-held town in Idlib province, northwest Syria, killing at least 16 people, according to opposition activists and a war monitoring group.

The raid, believed to have been carried out by Syrian or Russian jets, targeted on Monday the town of Maaret al-Numan, in southern Idlib province controlled by the opposition, and also wounded more than 30 people, according to reports from the region.

Activists said black smoke billowed over the city centre and citizens were on the street crying for help.

The region has witnessed intensive air raids and bombardment on a daily basis as Syrian troops, backed by Russian air cover, try to push their way into the enclave near the Turkish border.

Idlib province is the last major rebel stronghold in the country outside the control of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Since Syrian government forces launched their offensive in Idlib province in late April, more than 2,000 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands have been displaced.

Reporting from Beirut, Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr said that crowded market places have been targeted during the campaign, rather than rebel positions and checkpoints.
"Almost 700 people have been killed in recent weeks. This is kilometres away from the front line but this is what the Syrian government has been doing," Khodr said.

"They target civilian neighbourhoods, civilian infrastructure, in order to force the rebels to surrender. But the rebels are not surrendering. In fact what they are doing is putting up a fight and holding ground, not allowing the government to advance on the front lines kilometres away like I mentioned from Maaret al-Numan."
Khodr added that there was supposed to be a ceasefire in place, guaranteed by Turkey and Russia last year, however it collapsed a few weeks ago.

"These two countries who should be working together in Syria are otherwise engaged in a proxy war on the ground and that's why we see more and more airstrikes with civilians dying on a daily basis," Khodr said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which monitors the fighting on the ground in Syria through a network of activists, said the number of casualties from Monday's air raid was likely to rise due to the large number wounded.

Some of those wounded are in a serious condition, while others are still missing or trapped under rubble, the watchdog said.

The Thiqa news agency, an activist collective in northern Syria, gave a higher death toll, saying the air raid killed 20 people.

Sunday's air raids
On Sunday, government bombing in Idlib killed at least 18 people, including a young citizen journalist, according to rescue workers and a war monitor.

Anas al-Dyab, a photographer and videographer in his early 20s, was a member of the White Helmets rescue group who also contributed to the AFP news agency, the agency said, adding that he was killed in his hometown of Khan Sheikhun while trying to film the air raids.

Government air raids killed 17 other civilians including seven children in other parts of the region on Sunday, according to SOHR.

Despite the heavy bombardment, al-Assad's troops have been unable to make significant advances against the rebels or the al-Qaeda-linked fighters and other groups who dominate Idlib province.

Russia and the Syrian army deny allegations of indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas and say they are fighting al-Qaeda-inspired armed groups.

Armed groups have hit back hard, killing an average of more than a dozen soldiers and allied fighters a day in recent weeks.

The struggling campaign underscores the limits of Syria and Russia's airpower and inability to achieve a definitive victory in the country's long-running civil war, now in its ninth year.