4 Killed In Syrian Government Shelling

Syrian government artillery shells have struck a rebel-held town near the border with Turkey and have killed 4 people and wounded around 20 other people. 3 policemen, whose station received a direct hit, were among the victims of the attack in the town of Sarmada in Idlib governorate, says the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

The opposition’s Syrian Civil Defence, known as White Helmets, has said that the shelling was concentrated on the town and a road linking it with the border crossing point of Bab al-Hawa with Turkey.

A few hours earlier, new military reinforcement was brought by regime forces to Maarrat al-Nu’man area, the front lines in Jabal al-Zawiyah in southern Idlib, and Saraqeb in the east of Idlib. It included buses carrying soldiers, tanks, and rocket launchers.

According to SOHR, the arrival of this reinforcement coincided with reports circulated by the Syrian regime’s media outlets regarding an imminent battle in Idlib at the same time when Turkey’s President Erdogan talked about an imminent military operation in areas under the control of the Autonomous Administration in North Syria.

Recent killings

This shelling on Saturday comes amid increasing tensions in the last rebel stronghold in Syria’s northwest. In this region, a truce was reached in March 2020 but has been repeatedly violated in recent weeks.

The truce was negotiated between Turkey that sides with Syria’s opposition and Russia that backs the Syrian government, and it ended a crushing government offensive in northwestern Syria.

In other developments, a roadside bomb hit a Turkish military convoy on Friday night, killing two soldiers and wounding five on the road leading to Bab al-Hawa, according to Turkish media and the SOHR. It is reported that the attack was claimed by a group known as Supporters of Abu Bakr al-Siddiq Company, a militant group that has claimed previous attacks on Turkish forces.

Syria’s government has pledged to restore control over the territory lost during the 10-year conflict, which began in March 2011. According to AP, the region, consisting of parts of Idlib and Aleppo provinces, is home to about 4 million people, many of them displaced by war.

The war has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced half the country’s pre-war population of 23 million, including more than 5 million refugees outside the country.

In recent months, the army has stepped up its bombing of the northwestern enclave after President Bashar al-Assad took the oath of office for a new term on July 17. As al-Assad took the oath and pledged to make “liberating those parts of the homeland that still need to be” one of his top priorities, attacks on the Idlib villages of Sarja and Ehsin killed 14 civilians, seven of them children.

The following week, Syrian government artillery struck the village of Ibleen, killing seven members of the same family, including four children.

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