Market in Syrian city hit by 'Russian warplanes'

BEIRUT • Air strikes believed to have been carried out by Russian warplanes killed scores of people in the centre of the rebel-held city of Idlib in north-west Syria, rescue workers and residents said.

They said at least six strikes had hit a busy marketplace in the heart of the city, several government buildings and residential areas yesterday. Rescue workers said they had confirmed 43 dead, adding that at least 30 more bodies had been retrieved but had yet to be identified.

"There are a lot of corpses under the rubble," said civil defence worker Yasser Hammo, adding that he, his colleagues and volunteers were still pulling bodies out.

Russia began a major aerial campaign on Sept 30 in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, its ally, who earlier in the year had suffered a series of setbacks including the loss of Idlib province.

Moscow said it targets Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militants. Rebels and residents, however, said it is causing hundreds of civilian casualties through indiscriminate bombing of areas well away from the front lines.

Residents said they distinguish Russian planes that fly at high altitudes in sorties from Syrian helicopters, which mainly drop indiscriminate barrel bombs at much lower heights.

A coalition of Islamist rebels took Idlib city, the capital of a north-western province of the same name, earlier this year. It had previously been largely spared by Russian warplanes.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 21, 2015, with the headline 'Market in Syrian city hit by 'Russian warplanes''. Print Edition | Subscribe