By Ashraf Mousa
At least 10 civilians were killed in airstrikes carried out by Russian aircraft in the rural countryside of Syria’s northwestern Idlib province.
According to Mustafa Hajj Youssef, director of the White Helmets civil-defense agency in Idlib, the air raids targeted a hospital and two schools in the village of Meshmishana in Idlib’s Jisr al-Shughour district.
The strikes left 10 civilians dead and another 15 injured, including civil-defense personnel, Youssef told Anadolu Agency.
“Schools in the district have been shut due to ongoing shelling [by the regime], which will likely raise the death toll further,” he said.
Abu Bahr (not his real name), a pro-opposition activist, identified the aircraft that conducted the strikes as a Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter, which, he said, had taken off from Russia’s Khmeimim Airbase in western Syria.
"In addition, three members of the White Helmets were killed and four civilians were injured in another airstrike targeting a civil defense center in Khan Shaykhun district,” Youssef told Anadolu Agency later in the day.
He added that three women were also killed in another bombing in Kafar Sajna village.
Another civilian died and six others were injured in a rocket attack on Bidama town, he said, noting that attacks from air and land continued across the province.
Mahmoud Al Hasna, an air observatory officer of the opposition, said: “A Su-35 Russian fighter jet taking off from the Khmeimim Airbase in western Latakia province has bombed the civilian defense center in Khan Shaykhun district.”
On Wednesday, 10 civilians were killed and another 20 injured when Russian fighter jets targeted the town of Maarat al-Numan in Idlib’s southern countryside.
Notably, Idlib falls within a network of de-escalation zones -- endorsed by Turkey, Russia and Iran -- in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.
Controlled largely by anti-regime groups, Idlib has remained the target of intense airstrikes for the last two months. In January alone, 211 civilians were killed in the province while another 1,447 were injured.
Syria has only just begun to emerge from a devastating conflict that began in 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity.