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Regime fire kills civilian in northwest Syria

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Syrian civilians gather around a damaged car after an explosive device wounded a man and a child in the town of Binnish in Syriaís northwestern province of Idlib on August 4, 2019. (Photo by Muhammad HAJ KADOUR / AFP)

Regime fire killed a civilian in a jihadist-dominated region of northwest Syria Sunday, a monitor said, the first such death since a truce to protect the area.

Airstrikes on Idlib province and nearby areas have stopped since Thursday when the government announced a ceasefire for the area following three months of deadly bombardment.

But the regime has continued shelling the region, which currently hosts some 3 million people, while jihadists who dominate the area have refused to withdraw from a future buffer zone required under the truce deal.

Regime rocket fire on Sunday killed a woman in the Bidama district in the region’s west, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.

“It’s the first civilian death since the implementation of the truce deal,” the Britain-based monitor’s head Rami Abdel Rahman said.

On Saturday, the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance which dominates the region on Turkey’s border refused any withdrawal from the planned buffer zone to separate regime forces from rebel and jihadist fighters.

Abu Mohamed al-Jolani, the leader of the alliance led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate, said his fighters would “never withdraw from the zone”.

Just a day earlier, his group had warned it would respond to any ceasefire violations by its enemies.

The buffer zone is a key part of a deal struck by regime ally Russia and rebel backer Turkey in September to avert a full-out offensive on Idlib.

But that accord was never fully implemented as jihadists refused to withdraw from the planned buffer.

HTS overran the whole bastion at the start of the year.

A three-month uptick in the regime and Russian bombardment since late April has killed more than 790 civilians in the opposition bastion, the Observatory says.

Retaliatory fire on government-controlled areas in the same period has killed just over 70 civilians, it says.

The Syrian conflict has killed more than 370,000 people and driven millions from their homes since it started with the brutal repression of anti-government protests in 2011.


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