White Helmets retrieve a victim from Assad regime shelling of Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib Province, Syria, February 16, 2019
The Assad regime and its allies carried out 6,422 attacks in opposition-held northwest Syria in March, according to the White Helmets civil defense agency.
The rescuers gave data to Turkey’s Anadolu Agency documenting 3,950 rockets on Hama Province and 2,087 on Idlib Province — both part of a “demilitarized zone” proclaimed by Russia and Turkey last September — and 299 on western Aleppo Province.
The White Helmets recorded 86 regime airstrikes on civilians in Idlib. Russia, despite its declaration on the zone, has also carried out strikes in western Idlib on the pretext of attacking “terrorists”.
The Assad regime, denied its wish for a Russian-supported offensive to overrun Idlib last autumn, has escalated bombardment since mid-February. The Syrian Network for Human Rights has documented the killing of 135 civilians in March, and at least 38 have been slain since April 3.
Local NGOs said 160,583 civilians from 25,776 families left their homes and moved towards the Turkish border between February 2 and April 2.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, conferring in Moscow on Monday, did not refer to the regime attacks. Instead, Putin made a cursory reference to “the current situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone” and an agreement for coordinated patrols by the two countries. Erdoğan pledged to deal with “terrorists”, although his priority is more likely to be the Kurdish YPG militia in other parts of northern Syria.
Idlib and northern Hama are home to more than 3 million people, about 20% of Syria’s remaining population after eight years of conflict. Amid pro-Assad air and ground assaults, the White Helmets say they have saved more than 100,000 lives in the northwest and other areas of Syria since 2013.