Though it has largely slipped from the news, the civil war in Syria that began in 2011 is still ongoing to this day, and innocent civilians are still dying as the brutal regime led by Bashar Assad continues to fight against rebel groups seeking to oust him.
To that end, reports recently surfaced alleging that at least eight civilians — including three children — had been killed in a series of airstrikes by the Assad regime against suspected rebel positions in a northwestern province of the war-torn nation.
The Turkey-based Daily Sabah, citing reports from the French Press Agency (AFP) journalists and watchdog group observers in the war zone, reported that the series of airstrikes occurred in the Idlib province, a region that is home to more than 3 million Syrians and that was supposedly safe from attack as part of a buffer zone agreement reached in September 2018.
That agreement had been reached between Turkey and Russia, on behalf of Syria, to avoid a potentially massive offensive by regime forces in Idlib — which shares a border with Turkey — that could have proved catastrophic for the broader region.
Unfortunately, reports indicate that there has been an increasing number of attacks in the Idlib province since April by the Syrian regime against pockets of rebel fighters said to be taking refuge in the province.
The United Kingdom-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog group has claimed that more than 460 civilians have been killed in those airstrikes and bombardments since late April.
Civilians, children in the crossfire
The latest claimed civilian deaths from Assad regime airstrikes occurred in various locations across the Idlib region, with three reportedly dying in strikes on the town of Saraqib. An AFP reporter claimed to have seen rescue workers recover the body of a woman from the rubble of a collapsed building.
Two children were reportedly killed in a garage in a town known as Maaret al-Numan, while another child reportedly died in a strike on a village known as Maar Zita.
Airstrikes on the villages of Kansafra and Khan al-Subul reportedly killed two more civilians, bringing the total death toll of civilians in the series of airstrikes up to eight, at least thus far.
It is unknown how many, if any, rebel fighters were also killed in the series of airstrikes.
There is a good reason for concern over these airstrikes in the Idlib province. They could be a preface for the major offensive the regime intended to launch last year, but set aside after the agreement was reached with Turkey.
It remains to be seen if these recent airstrikes from the Assad regime — and Russia — are standalone operations or in preparation for a new ground offensive, but all eyes in the region and around the world will be watching closely to see how it plays out.