July 15, 2024

Opposition officials say Russia and Syria are capitalising on the world’s focus on Gaza to escalate attacks in Idlib.

Russian air strikes have targeted Syrian rebels and the United States has bombed Iran-backed groups in Syria, with the Russian military criticising Washington for failing to coordinate its operations.

Russian air strikes in Syria’s Idlib province have reportedly killed 34 rebel fighters and injured 60, as hostilities mount in the country’s last rebel stronghold.

Russia’s Aerospace Forces hit “illegal armed groups” in Idlib that were responsible for an artillery attack on Syrian government positions, Rear Admiral Vadium Kulit said, according to a report from state news agency Interfax late on Sunday.

The positions of Syrian government troops were struck seven times in the previous 24 hours, the Russian official said.

The Syrian army has blamed rebels for attacks on government-held areas in Idlib and Aleppo provinces. Syria denies indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas under rebel control.

However, opposition officials say both Moscow and Damascus are taking advantage of the world’s focus on the war in Gaza to escalate attacks in the densely populated region.

After 12 years of civil war, Idlib is Syria’s last rebel-held territory, with more than three million inhabitants there refusing to live under the authoritarian rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Since civil war broke out in Syria in 2011, more than half a million people have been killed.

‘Attacks must stop’

Kulit also repeated frequent Russian claims that the US-led coalition had breached Syrian airspace, saying numerous jet and drone flights were not coordinated with the Russian side.

The United States carried out two air strikes against Iran-aligned groups in Syria, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin confirmed on Monday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that at least eight pro-Iran fighters were killed.

Austin said that more strikes against Iran-linked groups could follow if attacks against US forces in Iraq and Syria continue.

“These attacks must stop, and if they don’t stop, then we won’t hesitate to do what’s necessary, again, to protect the troops,” Austin told reporters at a news conference in Seoul.

The US strike is the third in just over two weeks as Washington attempts to put an end to drone and rocket attacks against its forces in Syria and Iraq that began when the Israel-Hamas war started a month ago.

US and coalition troops have been attacked at least 40 times in Iraq and Syria by Iran-backed forces in recent weeks. About 56 troops have been injured in the attacks in Syria and Iraq, but all have returned to duty, according to the Pentagon.

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