‘Every single target was a civilian one’: Airstrikes take aim at Idlib city

 A Civil Defense worker finds a baby from underneath the rubble of Monday’s airstrikes. Photo courtesy of the Idlib Civil Defense.

A series of airstrikes struck multiple civilian sites across the densely populated Idlib city Monday night, targeting locations including residential buildings, a mosque and a soccer field, in what residents are calling the deadliest attacks in recent months, eyewitnesses told Syria Direct on Tuesday.

Warplanes conducted at least 10 air raids around 10:00pm, reportedly killing more than 50 people and injuring an additional 150.

“We documented these strikes, and every single target was a civilian one. The majority of the victims are women and children, and we are still searching for survivors from underneath the rubble,” says Abu Jihad, a first responder from the Idlib Civil Defense.

Moscow denies allegations of involvement in Monday’s attacks. “Russian planes did not carry out any combat missions, to say nothing of any air strikes, in the province of Idlib," said Igor Konashenkov, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, in a statement on Tuesday.

Syria’s state-run news agency, SANA, has not commented on Monday’s airstrikes.

Civil Defense workers fight to put out a fire following Monday’s airstrikes. Photo courtesy of the Idlib Civil Defense.

It is difficult to determine who conducted the airstrikes. The Russian Air Force shares at least the Su-24 airframe with the Syrian regime, which may occasionally confound airstrike attribution. Civilians, fighters and activists, however, say they have learned to recognize the distinctive signature of a Russian strike.

“Russian airstrikes deliberately targeted hospitals, schools, and other places where civilians congregate in Idlib city,” said Youssef Al-Dagham, a commander in the Victory Army, the Jabhat a-Nusra-led rebel coalition that controls Idlib province.

“The Russians say that they are targeting Jabhat a-Nusra, but there was no military presence at the site of their attacks,” added Al-Dagham. Syria Direct could not verify whether Nusra fighters were present at any of the targeted sites.

While the national hospital did not sustain a direct hit, the close proximity of the attack forced patients and staff to evacuate and the hospital is currently out of service, says Dr. Hassan Qador, a hematologist in neighboring Saraqeb.

Throughout Monday night, Civil Defense Units worked to recover survivors from underneath the rubble.

This attack was “the heaviest bombardment I’ve witnessed since the beginning of the revolution…Russian warplanes targeted civilian centers,” Imad Abu Ayman, a citizen journalist in Idlib city, told Syria Direct on Tuesday.

Since the start of their September 2015 intervention in Syria, Russian airstrikes have killed between 3,800 and 4,800 civilians, reported the monitoring organization Airwars earlier this month.

Despite the latest wave of bombings, people are not fleeing the provincial capital not only because there is nowhere else to go, but also because airstrikes are a part of daily life, citizen journalist Abu Ayman says.

“Most people are staying because we are used to these all-too-frequent waves of bombings."