Russian and Assad regime escalate bombing — US offers no response while caught in confusion over Assad future
- Pro-Assad Forces Regain Maardas on Northern Hama Front
- Video: Survivors of Khan Sheikhoun Chemical Attack Testify
Russia and the Assad regime have escalated already-intense bombing of northwest Syria, using incendiary munitions, two days after the US struck a regime airbase for the first time in the six-year conflict.
Russian and regime warplanes bombed at least 10 towns and villages across Idlib Province and northern Hama Province. Videos testified to the use of the incendiary material, such as thermite, to start large fires.
Khan Sheikhoun — the town in Idlib Province which was attacked by the regime with chemical weapons last Tuesday, killing more than 100 people and prompting Friday’s US response — was struck again. Contact was lost with residents in Saraqeb amid heavy attacks. Latamneh, bombed twice with chlorine in recent weeks, was targeted.
Sunday’s attacks continued the defiance of Washington after the US fired 59 Tomahawk missiles on the Shayrat airbase, from which the warplane carrying the chemical weapons — a hybrid of a nerve agent and chlorine — took off. On Saturday, the regime renewed strikes across Idlib Province, killing 19 people in the town of Urum al-Jouz alone and hitting Khan Sheikhoun. It also proclaimed loudly that flights from Shayrat had resumed.
A resident of Urum al-Jouz, noting that there are no military targets in the area, summarized, “There has been an undeniable escalation in this area and the Idlib countryside as a whole since the US airstrikes. If anything, they’ve made matters worse and have led Russia and the regime to increase their airstrikes.”
On Sunday, night-time strikes and the incendiary munitions testified to Russian involvement.
VIDEO: Pro-regime jets drop internationally-prohibited phosphorus bombs on Saraqib, Idlib, sparking large fires in the city. pic.twitter.com/jjAYVAplw7
— هادي العبدالله Hadi (@HadiAlabdallah) April 9, 2017
So far, there has been no response from the Trump Administration, which is now embroiled in public division over whether it will accept President Assad’s retention of power.
However, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson implied that the US was only trying to prevent another chemical attack, with no effect on conventional attacks. He told a political talk show that there was “no change” in the American military posture.
Tillerson said the US expected Russia to take a tougher stance with Assad since “every time one of these horrific attacks occurs, it draws Russia closer into some level of responsibility.” However, unnamed officials confirmed to US outlets that concern was limited to Assad’s chemical capability.
Regime-Russia-Iran Center: We Will Respond to New US “Aggression”
Russia and Iran, the essential allies of Damascus, joined the Assad regime in a coordinated message on Sunday, warning the US not to repeat last Friday’s missile strikes.
A joint command center said in a statement, “What America waged in an aggression on Syria is a crossing of red lines. From now on we will respond with force to any aggressor or any breach of red lines from whoever it is and America knows our ability to respond well.”
The statement was reinforced by Tehran’s announcements of high-level contacts with the Assad regime and Moscow. President Hassan Rouhani called President Assad to express “strong condemnation of the outrageous US aggression” which was “a blatant violation of the Syrian sovereignty and all the international laws and conventions”, while the head of the Iranian army, Major General Mohammad Bagheri, spoke with his Syrian counterpart General Ali Abdullah Ayoub.
Rouhani and Russian President Vladimir Putin also consulted by phone over the “aggressive US actions” which “were not permissible and violated international law”, the Kremlin said.
On Saturday, Baqeri conferred with Russian counterpart Valery Vasilevich Gerasimov, and the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, spoke with the Secretary of the Russian Federation Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev.
Shamkhani asserted, “The path of firmly countering terrorism will continue through further strategic cooperation among Iran, Syria, Russia and the resistance front.”
Confusion Over US Position on Assad
The confusion over the Trump Administration’s position only increased on Sunday, with different televised messages from Tillerson and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.
In her pre-recorded appearances on CNN and NBC, Haley said, “In no way do we see peace in that area with Assad as the head of the Syrian government.”
TOP PHOTO: White Helmets rescuers in front of a large fire in Besida in Idlib Province
Pro-Assad Forces Regain Maardas on Northern Hama Front
Pro-Assad forces have retaken the village of Maardas in northern Hama Province, almost completing the reversal of rebel gains from an offensive last month.
The regime and its allies reoccupied Maardas on Monday after sustained air and ground attacks in recent days.
The rebels now hold onto the town of Souran as their major gain on the northern Hama front.
Video: Survivors of Khan Sheikhoun Chemical Attack Testify
Victims of last Tuesday’s chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun in northwest Syria and their relatives testify:
Architect Samir Shayeb says, “My oldest son died, and I don’t know where my other son and wife are. I don’t know what happened to them.”
Zuhour al-Yousef, still seeking news of her husband and children, says, “Sarin, chlorine — I can’t take it anymore. I’m tired.”
These victims of chemical attacks in Idlib, Syria recount their horrific experiences pic.twitter.com/8XLBJWW82C
— TRT World (@trtworld) April 9, 2017