Syria war: Idlib rebels targeted by 'fiercest raids in weeks'

‘Fiercest raids in weeks’ in north Syria

Syria and Russia have carried out their most intensive air raids in weeks on rebel positions in the northern province of Idlib, activists say.

They say strikes targeted eastern and southern parts of Idlib, as well as the bordering province of Hama.

It is the last major rebel-held area in Syria and government forces, backed by Russia, are poised to attack.

On Friday the leaders of Russia and Iran rejected calls for a truce despite fears of a humanitarian disaster.

On Saturday the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a monitoring body, and the opposition-affiliated Idlib Media Centre said government helicopters had dropped 19 barrel bombs on targets in Idlib and northern Hama, and Russian warplanes had staged 68 strikes.

The SOHR said that the raids were the “most violent and heaviest” since 10 August. Four civilians, including two children, were killed in just two strikes in southern Idlib, it said.

Why is Idlib important?

It is the last stronghold of the rebels and jihadists who have fought the Syrian authorities for the past seven years.

Idlib straddles major highways across Syria and if it is retaken by the government, the rebels would be left with just a few isolated pockets of territory.

The province is not controlled by a single group, but by a number of rival factions, including a jihadist alliance linked to al-Qaeda, and a rival National Liberation Front which is backed by…

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