Assad Regime and Allied Russian Forces Resume Airstrikes on Idlib

After a 17-hour lull, the Syrian government resumed intense airstrikes on the last major opposition stronghold, prompting over 5,000 civilians to flee

Smoke billows following Syrian government forces' bombardment around the town of Khan Sheikhun on the southern edges of the rebel-held Idlib province on September 8, 2018.

Syrian government forces and allied Russia on Sunday resumed intense airstrikes on Idlib, the last major opposition stronghold in the war-torn country, ending a short cessation in violence, a monitoring group reported.

The attacks, which ended a 17-hour lull, came amid mounting fears that forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, supported by Russia, will soon launch a final offensive to regain Idlib, which has been under the rebels' control since 2015.

Sunday's bombing targeted the southern section of Idlib and the northern countryside of neighbouring Hama province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

>> Syrian, Russian air raids kill four in southern Idlib

Russian jets carried out 14 successive air raids, while government helicopters dropped around 25 barrels packed with explosives on rebel areas, the watchdog added without reporting casualties.

The bombardment in the past two days has prompted more than 5,000 people to flee Idlib for safer areas in the province's northern countryside and the north-western rural part of Aleppo province, the Observatory said.

Sunday's violence came two days after Russia, Iran and Turkey held a summit in Tehran to discuss the fate of Idlib.

A call at the summit for a ceasefire in Idlib, made by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was rejected by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rowhani, who maintain the province is inhabited by "terrorists."

Russia and Iran are key allies of  al-Assad, while Turkey supports the rebels.

Idlib is largely controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an Islamist alliance led by an al-Qaeda-affiliated group.

It also has a population of 3 million civilians, a third of whom have already been internally displaced by Syria's seven-year conflict.