Russian air strikes kill civilians in abandoned Syrian water pumping station

At least two civilians were killed when Russian air strikes hit an abandoned water pumping station in Syria’s rebel-held northwest, first responders said Wednesday, amid a recent uptick in attacks by the Syrian government’s ally Moscow.

Two strikes late Tuesday near Ain Shib, west of the city of Idlib, hit the facility where displaced Syrians had been living, an AFP correspondent at the scene said.

Rescuers said two civilians have been killed, with the correspondent seeing one of the bodies lying on the ground.

Several inhabitants of the building were unaccounted for, the correspondent added.

Moscow’s intervention in Syria’s war since 2015 has helped Damascus claw back much of the territory it lost to rebel forces early in the 12-year civil conflict.

The rebel-held Idlib region is home to about three million people, around half of them displaced from other parts of the country.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, said the strikes near Ain Shib had targeted “military bases belonging to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS),” the extremist group that controls the bastion.

It reported the same death toll, adding that several other displaced people were wounded or unaccounted for.

Other late-night Russian strikes targeted the town of Ariha, south of Idlib city, the correspondent and the Observatory said.

Extremist group HTS, led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate, controls swathes of Idlib province as well as parts of the adjacent Latakia, Hama and Aleppo provinces.

Just hours earlier, Russian air strikes targeting a rebel base north of Idlib city killed three members of HTS, while seven other fighters and five civilians were wounded, according to the Britain-based Observatory, which has a network of sources inside Syria.

HTS regularly carries out deadly attacks on soldiers and pro-government forces, and Russian forces have repeatedly struck the Idlib area, with civilians among the recent casualties.

On Monday, Russian air strikes on the outskirts of Idlib city killed 13 HTS fighters and wounded several others.

On August 5, three family members, all civilians, were killed when Russian warplanes struck the outskirts of Idlib, the Observatory said at the time.

Those strikes targeted a former HTS base nearby that the extremists had abandoned several weeks earlier, it added.

On June 25, Russian air strikes killed at least 13 people including nine civilians in Idlib province.

A member of the Turkistan Islamic Party, a Uyghur-dominated extremist group, was among the four fighters killed in those strikes, which also wounded at least 30 civilians, the monitor had said.

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