Motive unclear after Russian-made jet hits civilians and police officers
At least 47 people have reportedly been killed and more than 90 wounded in pro-Assad airstrikes on a market and other sites in western Aleppo Province in northwest Syria.
The attack was on the town of Atareb, northwest of Aleppo city, held by the opposition since 2011. Witnesses said a Russian-made Su-34 jet carried out three raids with six rockets, including vacuum missiles.
As well as striking the market, the warplane hit a police station, killing and injuring officers.
— Qalaat Al Mudiq (@QalaatAlMudiq) November 13, 2017
See other videos and pictures in Syria Developing: 47+ Killed in Pro-Assad Airstrike on Western Aleppo Province
Atareb is covered by a de-escalation zone announced by Russia, Turkey, and Iran in late August for Idlib Province and parts of neighboring Hama, Latakia, and Aleppo Province in northwest Syria. Only two weeks ago in the talks in the Kazakh capital Astana, the three powers reiterated their formal commitment to the zones — although Iran has been reluctant and the Assad regime has vowed to recapture all opposition territory.
The immediate rationale for Monday’s attack is unclear. While Russia has said that it will attack the jihadists of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham bloc, considering them excluded from any ceasefire under the de-escalation zones, there are no HTS fighters in Atareb. Instead, the town, is run by a local council, and a base of Turkish-supported rebels is only 15 km (9 miles) away.
However, despite the de-escalation agreement, Russian and regime attacks continued on Idlib Province and northern Hama Province through September, although they had eased in the weeks before Monday’s mass killing.
Pro-Assad accounts have been hailing an offensive through western Aleppo into Idlib Province to take the Abu Duhur airbase, but it is unclear why an assault on Atareb would have any military connection to such an operation.
Neither Russian State outlets nor the Assad regime’s official news agency have mentioned yesterday’s attack and casualties. The pro-Assad propaganda site al-Masdar also ignored the news, while boasting that “Syrian Army Keeps Rolling near Idlib Border as HTS Loses Another Town”.
Erdoğan Says Russia and US Should Withdraw Troops — But Then Talks Nice to Putin
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has called on Russia and the US to withdraw their troops from Syria.
Erdoğan responded on Monday to a summary of a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US counterpart Donald Trump, at a summit in Vietnam on Saturday, that there was “no military solution” to the conflict:
I am having trouble understanding these comments. If a military solution [in Syria] is out of the question, then those who say this should pull their troops out…and steps for a political solution should be taken.
Erdoğan then met Putin in Sochi in southern Russia, where a conciliatory tone was struck in a statement from the Turkish Presidency:
We had an opportunity to discuss the latest developments about the Syrian conflict. We both agree that at the point we have reached there is now a basis for us to focus on political resolution.
The Kremlin said Putin noted how the two countries “cooperate very closely on security in the Syrian region”. He asserted, “I would like to note with satisfaction that our joint work with Turkey and Iran as guarantors of the ‘Astana process’ continues to yield concrete results.”
In his earlier statement, Erdoğan said that he did not anticipate Russia or the US would leave Syria soon: “The United States said it would completely leave Iraq, but it didn’t. The world is not stupid, some realities are being told differently and practiced differently.”