On Wednesday, warplanes struck a school complex in the rebel-held province of Idlib, Syria. The airstrikes took the lives of 20 people, and most of the casualties were children. The local news network shared that the strikes hit as the children gathered outside the school complex in the village of Hass. An activist group shared details about the final death toll and stated that there were worries this toll could rise as some of the wounded were reported to be in critical condition.
Idlib has seen a large presence of radical groups and has been a main Syrian opposition stronghold. Syrian and Russian warplanes have been targeting the area regularly. Footage of the most recent and deadly airstrikes shows a huge rising of smoke from the strikes, followed by rescuers rushing to assist casualties along dusty roads amid destroyed structures.
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An activist at the scene, Muaz-al-Shami, stated that there were as many as 10 airstrikes that hit the area that is mainly residential. The Associated Press shares the words of a young girl following the incident, who said as she wept, “I don’t want to go to school anymore.”
Prior to these strikes, the northern portion of Aleppo province experienced a new escalation that was reportedly due to the Syrian government forces dropping barrel bombs directed at the “Turkey-backed opposition forces in the border area,” according to Turkish officials. In relation to this, the field commander of Syria’s pro-government troops relayed that any advance by Turkish troops fighting in northern Syria and backing IS militants would be met “forcefully and appropriately.”
The barrel bombing reportedly occurred in Tal Madiq, a village in a part of northern Aleppo where rival groups have set up operations.This attack marks the first by Syrian government forces against the Turkish-backed fighters. State-run news agencies out of Turkey did not share when the attack happened, but they did state that at least two Syrian opposition fighters were killed, and five others were wounded. A spokesman for Syrian opposition stated that the attack happened on Tuesday.
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The AP notes details about what is known of the attack.
“The Observatory’s chief, Rami Abdurrahman, said helicopters struck as intense clashes were underway between Kurdish-led fighters and Turkey-backed forces in Tal Madiq and that 11 Syrian opposition fighters and five Kurdish fighters were killed. The Kurdish-led forces are now in control of the village, about 10 miles from the highly prized IS-controlled al-Bab town. A senior Kurdish commander, however, denied Syrian government bombings of the Turkey-backed fighters, saying it was an attempted explanation for battlefield losses.”
The terrain that was targeted is home to several rival groups, and fighting between these groups could break out at any time. Groups within the area include the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters and Turkey-backed Syrian rebels, as well as Turkish fighters.
Last week, the Syrian military stated that it would shoot down any Turkish warplanes that entered Syrian air space following the raid on villages in northern Syria and eastern Aleppo by Turkish jets. The Assad government made it clear that impeding the Syrian military’s air operations would not be accepted or tolerated.
However, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlutt Cavusoglu spoke to reporters on Wednesday and stated that Turkey is determined to push on with their offensive efforts in northern Syria. The operation has been termed Operation Euphrates Shield, and the alleged Turkish objective is to liberate the key town of al-Bab from IS militants. He said that they would not be deterred from their mission.
“Such attacks will not stop us from combatting Daesh,” Cavusoglu said, using an Arabic language acronym for the Islamic State group. “The Euphrates Shield operation will continue. The only goal of the Euphrates Shield operation is to clear Daesh from this area.”
[Featured Image by Wathiq Khuzaie /Getty Images]