June 8, 2020 / 5:22 PM / a month ago

Air strikes break truce in rebel towns in Syria's northwest - witnesses

AMMAN (Reuters) - Military jets bombed several villages in rebel-held northwestern Syria on Monday in the first such air strikes since a Turkish-Russian deal produced a ceasefire over three months ago that halted major fighting.

The strikes hit villages in the Jabal al-Zawiya region in the southern part of Idlib province and two towns in the Sahel al-Ghab plain, west of Hama province, witnesses said.

Hundreds of civilians fled, fearing a wider resumption of air strikes in Syria’s last rebel bastion, the witnesses said.

The deal brokered in March between Russia, which backs Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s forces, and Turkey, which supports opposition fighters, ended fighting that had displaced over a million people in three months in the region which borders Turkey.

But the deal holds less sway over hardline jihadists who control large parts of Idlib province.

Civil defence groups said two civilians and several others were injured in strikes conducted by Russian jets that flew at high altitudes, according to a network of plane spotters who document sightings of jet fighters.

Mainstream opposition sources said they suspected the strikes were against militant hideouts in parts of territory where Ankara has now established a major military presence since the Russian-backed Syrian army offensive began in earnest earlier this year.

A Syrian army source told state media that militants attacked two army outposts in the Sahel al-Ghab plain and seized them, but were later repelled. It did not refer to any aerial strikes.

Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Mark Potter

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