Aftermath of an airstrike on a residential neighborhood in Idlib city on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Muslem Sayed Issa.
At least 10 separate airstrikes of unknown provenance pummeled civilian locations across Idlib’s provincial capital and surrounding towns over the weekend, eyewitnesses told Syria Direct on Monday.
The attacks targeted locations including a mosque, a school, a vegetable market and residential buildings, and effectively closed a field hospital after destroying its electrical generator.
The first of an estimated 12 strikes began around 3:30pm on Saturday in Saraqeb, 20km east of Idlib city. The attacks continued, and escalated in intensity, through Sunday, pounding the provincial capital of Idlib city and resulting in more than 12 deaths with 45 people reported injured.
“Every single person who was injured Sunday was a civilian,” Imad Abu Ayman, a citizen journalist in Idlib city, told Syria Direct on Monday.
Eyewitness accounts vary regarding the origin of the airstrikes, with some pointing to regime warplanes and others claiming Russian involvement.
Syria Direct could not independently confirm who carried out the strikes. Government representatives from Syria and Russia have not commented.
“The attacks don’t discern between civilians and combatants,” said Abu Faisal, a commander in the Victory Army, the Jabhat a-Nusra-led rebel coalition that controls Idlib province. “They don’t care if they hit women, children or the elderly. There is nothing new about what happened Sunday.”
Prior to this weekend’s airstrikes, the Victory Army announced its withdrawal from Idlib city, the group’s most strategic territorial holding, on Thursday. By closing offices and removing all military presence from the provincial capital, the Victory Army said there is no longer any reason to target civilians. The cessation of hostilities in place since February exempts territory under the control of Jabhat a-Nusra.
Airstrikes targeted an apartment building in Idlib city on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Muslem Sayed Issa.
“The Victory Army will have no military offices or barracks [in Idlib city]. In so doing, we will hold the Syrian regime directly accountable for its crimes against women, children, and the internally displaced,” Thursday’s statement reads.
As Civil Defense Units continued recovery operations on Monday to pull victims and survivors from underneath the rubble, employees at the Uday Hussein Hospital in Saraqeb are working to restore electricity, after Saturday’s airstrikes destroyed the field hospital’s generator.
[Ed.: The hospital shares a name with, but is not named after, Saddam Hussein’s eldest son.]
“The bombing, which struck the immediate vicinity of the hospital, destroyed some critical equipment, most notably the electricity generator,” Dr. Ahmed al-Asaad, the hospital’s director, told Syria Direct on Monday. “As a result, there are critically injured patients whom we are unable to treat.”
This is not the first time the hospital has come under fire. On April 1, 2015, regime airstrikes targeted the Uday Hussein hospital—which provides free medical services to roughly 4,500 patients annually—destroying vital medical equipment that the hospital has been unable to replace.
Last Monday, a series of airstrikes similarly targeted civilian locations across Idlib city, killing more than 50 people and marking the province’s deadliest attacks in recent months, Syria Direct reported.