Russia kills Turkish-backed rebels in Syria: Monitor

Airstrikes by Russia, an ally of the Damascus government, killed Turkish-backed rebels in northwestern Syria on Monday, one monitor said, in the deadliest incident of violence since a clash about eight months ago. 


Russia kills Turkish-backed rebels in Syria: Monitor

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said more than 90 others were wounded when Russian warplanes struck a training camp of the Faylaq al-Sham faction in the Duwayli area in Idlib province.


In early March, a truce was exchanged between Moscow and Ankara that led to months of military action by the Russian-backed government in Idlib, the country's last major rebel stronghold.


The December attack displaced one million people in the worst inhumane crisis of the nine-year civil war.


The head of the Observatory, Rami Abdul Rahman, called Monday's strikes "the deadliest since the ceasefire."


The National Liberation Front, an umbrella group of Ankara-backed rebels based in Idlib, including Faylaq al-Sham, told’ AFP that Monday's Russian attack targeted one of its positions and caused casualties. He did not give an exact number of casualties.


NLF spokesperson Sayf Raad "condemned the continued violation of the Turkish-Russian agreement in targeting Russian aircraft and government troops, villages and towns."


Of the nearly 1 million people displaced by the latest Idlib attack, more than 200,000 have returned to their cities and villages, most since the ceasefire was’ implemented.


Despite intermittent bombardment of the area from both sides, the March war has largely taken place.


Abdel-Rahman said Russian airstrikes have occasionally targeted military positions, including those of Turkish-backed groups.


- UN Ambassador Visits -


The U.S. military said Thursday it had carried out a drone strike against al Qaeda leaders in northwestern Syria, in which the Observatory said 17 jihadists had been killed’ at a dinner party.


Led by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a former al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, and coalition rebels occupy the region of about 3 million people, who have been living in camps since fleeing fighting in other parts of the country.


Last week, Turkey retreated from one of its largest outposts in northwestern Syria, which has been under siege by Syrian government forces for the past year.


The Morek checkpoint in Hama province was Turkey's largest checkpoint, most of which is now under Syrian government control.


The Observatory says that after the With Russian-backed military victories, the Syrian government has gained control of about 70 percent of the country.


The Syrian war, which began in 2011 after the brutal crackdown on anti-government protests has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced millions at home and abroad.


Endless rounds of UN-backed peace talks have failed to stem the tide of bloodshed, and in recent years, the path of parallel talks led by Russia and Turkey has been largely’ overcome.


On Sunday, UN envoy to Syria Gere Pedersen visited Damascus and met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.


Pedersen later said the meeting discussed all issues related to Security Council Resolution 2254 for a political solution to the conflict.


"It is my hope that the meetings we have today and the meetings that will continue will be the beginning of something new," he said.


The UN envoy said he would then hold talks with members of the political opposition.


"Hopefully, we can see if it is possible to find a common ground on how to move this process forward," he added.


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