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Syria regime rockets strike west of Idlib: monitor

Syrian regime rocket fire has killed nine people including three children at makeshift camps for displaced people in the country’s last major rebel-held bastion, a war monitor said.

The dead from Sunday’s morning attack included three children among seven civilians, and two unidentified individuals, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a broad network of sources on the ground.

An earlier toll reported six civilians dead, including two youngsters.

It said another 75 people were wounded when more than 30 rockets exploded in several areas, including the camps, west of the city of Idlib in Syria’s northwest.

Shelling continued later in the morning at several locations in the area and rebels targeted government positions in retaliation for the strikes, according to the Observatory.

An AFP correspondent saw flimsy tents destroyed and burned, blood stains and rocket debris at the scene.

At a nearby hospital, the correspondent saw the bodies of two young girls.

Abu Hamid, a camp resident, said: “We awoke this morning and were getting ready for work when we began hearing the sounds of strikes.”

“The children were afraid and began screaming”, continued the 67-year-old.

“We didn’t know where to go. It wasn’t one rocket or two, but a dozen. The shrapnel was flying from every direction. We didn’t know how to protect ourselves.”

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Retaliation strikes 

The last pocket of armed opposition to Bashar al Assad’s regime includes large swathes of Idlib province and parts of the neighbouring Aleppo, Hama and Latakia provinces.

According to the Observatory, the rocket fire came the day after five Syrian regime forces members died in shelling by a group affiliated with HTS.

Hayat Tahrir al Sham (HTS), headed by ex-members of Syria’s former Al Qaeda franchise, is one of the armed groups in the area but other rebel groups are also active.

HTS has been designated as a terrorist organisation by Türkiye, the US, and the EU because of its former affiliation with Al Qaeda. 

The Idlib region is home to about three million people, around half of them displaced.

They are among the millions displaced internally and abroad by the war in Syria since 2011. Nearly half a million people have been killed.

With Russian and Iranian support, Damascus clawed back much of the ground lost in the early stages of Syria’s conflict, which erupted in 2011 when the government brutally repressed pro-democracy protests.

Despite periodic clashes, a ceasefire reached in 2020 by Moscow and Türkiye has largely held in the northwest.

READ MORE: France repatriates dozens of children, women from Syria camps

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