Pro-Assad forces also attacking East Ghouta near Damascus


UPDATE 1400 GMT: Russian and regime bombing of Idlib Province in northwest Syria continues on Tuesday morning:

And in East Ghouta:

Russia and the Assad regime are continuing round-the-clock bombing of opposition-held Idlib Province in northwest Syria.

For months, pro-Assad forces have fired bombs and missiles — defying a Russian-declared “de-escalation zone” — in support of an offensive which has re-entered the province, almost all of which has been held by the opposition since spring 2015.

Since Saturday, Russia has justified the bombardment with the downing of one of the attacking Su-25 jets by anti-Assad forces near Saraqeb, a town which has been struck by hundreds of raids and 15 km (9 miles) from the frontline with the pro-Assad offensive. The pilot killed himself on the ground, before he could be captured, with the Islamist jihadist bloc Hayat Tahrir al-Sham claiming responsibility for the incident.

At least 18 civilians were killed and 45 wounded on Sunday, according to the White Helmets civil defense organization, and the attacks continued yesterday. Nine medical facilities have been damaged and put out of service, including hospitals treating the wounded from the airstrikes. Among the facilities struck is Idlib’s largest hospital, in the town of Maarat al-Num’an.

Residential buildings, including a seven-story tower, have been demolished. A suspected chlorine attack on Saraqeb wounded nine people, including three aid workers.

Aid worker Laith Abdullah said:

At about 9:20 pm local time, two warplanes dropped two barrels containing chlorine on a heavily populated civilian area in Saraqeb.

There was gas and smoke everywhere. Everyone was suffocating – people were screaming out “ambulance”.

It is difficult to describe; it is difficult to explain the amount of pain we were in and how much we were suffering.

A second rescuer has been killed in two days:

Pro-opposition journalist Hadi al-Abdallah said from the town of Kafranbel:

The Russians are in a frenzy. They’re going mad. The shelling is ongoing throughout the day and night. The warplanes are hitting residential areas.

The massacres started yesterday [Sunday] night. The whole area was vibrating. About 12 homes came crumbling down.

Activist Ibrahim Ismail added from the Syrian-Turkish border, “Yesterday night was horrible. People are describing it as Doomsday and saying there were more than eight warplanes in the air. The shelling is heavy and arbitrary.”

More than two million Syrians, including many displaced from other areas of the country, are in the province. Tens of thousands are estimated to have moved from southern to northern Idlib in recent weeks in the face of the pro-Assad offensive.

Report: 29 Killed by Pro-Assad Attacks on East Ghouta

Pro-Assad warplanes also bombed the besieged East Ghouta area near Damascus on Monday, with claims that at least 29 people were killed.

Strikes were reported on the towns of Zamalka, Erbin, Hazza, and Beitu Soua.

Putting aside a de-escalation zone agreed between rebels and Russia last summer, a pro-Assad offensive has been trying for months to retake the remaining opposition parts of East Ghouta, with almost 400,000 residents. Shelling and bombing has escalating, chlorine has been used, and a five-year siege has been tightened, threatening civilians with malnutrition and deaths from treatable medical conditions.

For days, pro-Assad units have been trying to move into Erbin, but have been repelled.

Attacks are continuing on Monday, including the town of Saqba:

A tweet from children in East Ghouta:

Russia: Several Killed by Rebel Shelling of Damascus

The Russian “Center for Reconciliation” said on Monday that several residents of central Damascus were killed and several more wounded when two aid distribution centers were hit by mortar fire from rebels.

The Assad regime’s SANA news agency said that five people were killed, two of them children, in Bab Touma and Jaramana.

Erdoğan Issues Another Threat Over Manbij

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has issued another threat to the US-supported, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces over their control of the city of Manbij in eastern Aleppo Province.

Erdoğan said the Turkish-rebel offensive, which so far has concentrated on the Afrin canton about 100 km (60 miles) west of Manbij, will remove the SDF, as he swiped at US leaders:

Mr. Obama did not tell the truth. Trump is also on the same path. They said: “We will withdraw from Manbij.” Why don’t you withdraw? Who have you brought to this city with you? The PYD [Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party], the YPG, and the [Turkish Kurdish insurgency] PKK. You allow them to settle and tell us, “Don’t come to Manbij.”

We will come to Manbij to hand it over to its real owners.

The SDF took Manbij from the Islamic State in August 2016.

“Those who equate Turkey with those marauders under the pretext of the anti-ISIS fight have now begun to realize which one is a state and which one is a band of gangs,” Erdoğan told parliamentary members of his ruling party AKP.

He claimed, without support, that the Turkish-rebel offensive on Afrin has “neutralized” more than 1,000 “YPG terrorists”.

Report: Turkish Soldier Killed, 5 Injured in Shelling of Observation Post

The Turkish military says one of its soldiers has been killed and five injured in shelling of a newly-established observation in southwest Aleppo Province, near the border with Idlib.

Turkish forces moved into al-Eis on Monday, the fourth observation post set up as a Turkish-rebel offensive moves on the Kurdish canton of Afrin.

The Turkish unit reportedly exchanged artillery fire with pro-Assad, Iran-supported foreign militias in a nearby village.

Turkey Detains 573 Over Social Media Posts and Protests Criticizing Afrin Offensive

Turkey has detained 573 people for social media posts and protests criticizing the military offensive against Afrin.

“Since the start of Operation Olive Branch, 449 people have been detained for spreading terrorist propaganda on social media and 124 people detained for taking part in protest action,” the Interior Ministry said.

Last week, a prosecutor ordered the detention of 11 senior members of the Turkish Medical Association, including its chairman, after the organization criticized the incursion with “No to war, peace immediately”. Erdogan denounced the TMA as traitors.

All of the doctors have since been released on probation, but detention orders have been issued for another 13 people for supporting the medics.

Report: YPG Shells Hit Camp for Displaced Persons, Kill Girl and Injure 7

Artillery shells struck a camp for displaced persons near the Syrian-Turkish border on Tuesday morning, killing an 8-year-old girl and injuring seven other civilians.

An administrator of the camp, blaming the Kurdish militia YPG, said three shells hit the tent settlement near the village of Atmeh, which has 54 camps along a five-km strip of land with about 60,000 occupants.

YPG spokesman Brosk Hasakah said the reports were “untrue” and accused rebels of responsibility: “These groups target civilians, and they want to cover up their [battlefield] losses by spreading these rumors.”

Several people have been killed inside Turkey by cross-border YPG shelling since the Turkish-rebel offensive against Afrin, 2 km from the Atmeh camps, began on January 18.