No relief from Russia-regime assault in northwest Syria and near Damascus


The pro-Assad bombing and shelling campaign killed another 59 people in East Ghouta near Syria’s capital Damascus on Thursday, while three White Helmets rescuers were among those slain in Idlib Province in the northwest of the country.

Local sources said another 139 people were injured in East Ghouta. In the town of Erbin, where pro-Assad forces have carried out a series of unsuccessful ground assaults, airstrikes killed 21, including nine children and three women.

The death toll since Monday is estimated to be at least 220, with more than 800 wounded.

Footage of rescues in Erbin:

A BBC report on the attacks:

Attack on Rescuers in Idlib

In Idlib Province, Russian strikes hit a White Helmets headquarters in the town of Khan Sheikhoun. Three volunteers — Ahmad Khattab, Mustafa Bakour, and Dirar Besserini — were killed and five wounded.

Russia and the regime have stepped up airstrikes on Idlib, almost all of which has been held by the opposition since spring 2015, in recent weeks. Hundreds of civilians have been killed or wounded, and at least 12 medical and civil defense facilities have been knocked out of service this week.

Idlib has an estimated 2.5 million residents. An estimated 300,000 have moved from southern to northern Idlib amid a pro-Assad offensive which has re-entered the southeast of the province.

A White Helmets rescuer rushes to a bombed building to search for survivors, to find his mother slain under the rubble:

Mattis Limits US Response to Pro-Assad Operations

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has put limits on the US response to pro-Assad military operations in northern and eastern Syria, a day after US-led coalition airstrikes killed about 100 pro-Assad troops attacking a position of the US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in Deir ez-Zor Province.

“It was self-defense. Obviously, we are not getting engaged in the Syrian civil war,” Mattis said.

The American strikes were the first deliberate operation against pro-Assad personnel in Syria’s 83-month conflict. It followed the attempt by pro-Assad forces to seize a gas plant from the SDF, east of the Euphrates River.

US military officials said the coalition contacted Russian counterparts before the counter-attacks, having alerted Moscow to the presence of SDF forces in the area. Mattis said the Russians responded that they did not have any personnel alongside the pro-Assad units.

The Assad regime’s Foreign Ministry, without referring to the pro-Assad attack on the SDF, condemned the US response as “a brutal massacre against Syrian popular forces which were confronting Daesh [ISIS]”.

In a letter to the UN, the Ministry acknowledged the deaths of “dozens” of troops and injury of “many others”.

Turkey’s Erdoğan: No Talks With Assad

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has rejected a call by the main opposition party for talks with Bashar al-Assad.

Erdoğan responded to Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu:

What will we talk about with a murderer who has killed one million of his citizens?…

Until today, we have not walked with those who have taken the path permitted by terrorist organizations and we will not do so from now on.

Earlier this week Turkey said it will soon host a summit with Russian and Iranian Presidents Vladimir Putin and Hassan Rouhani.