Assad forces target crowded market, kill two: Syria’s White Helmets

Meanwhile, Israel bombed Aleppo and Neirab, leaving Syrians trapped between two forces raining fire from the sky.

A man inspects a car damaged in the bombing by Syrian government forces on a bust market in Idlid, Syria [Ali Haj Suleiman/Al Jazeera]
A man inspects a car damaged in the bombing by Syrian government forces on a bust market in Idlid, Syria [Ali Haj Suleiman/Al Jazeera]

Idlib, Syria — Two civilians, including a child, were killed, and 16 others, including four children, were injured in an artillery attack by Syrian regime forces targeting a popular market in the centre of Idlib city on Saturday evening, according to the Syria Civil Defence.

“We received two martyrs and 14 injuries, including two critical cases, at the hospital, and they are now in the operating room,” said Ismail al-Hassan, the head of the emergency department at Idlib University Hospital.

Al-Hassan told Al Jazeera that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad had recently intensified its targeting of the area, necessitating a constant state of preparedness to receive any injuries within the city or its vicinity in the event of any bombardment.

“For nearly 13 years, we have been working to save civilian casualties targeted by the Assad regime and Russia,” al-Hassan said. The Syria Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets, said that earlier on Saturday, a child was wounded as a result of artillery shelling targeting the city of Atarib in the western Aleppo countryside.

“The timing and location of today’s attack in Idlib indicate that its goal is to kill the largest number of civilians,” said Ahmed Yazji, a board member of the Syria Civil Defence. Yazj told Al Jazeera that the attacks by the Syrian regime and Russia on the Idlib region consistently aim to target vital centres, schools, and hospitals with the intention of killing civilians.

“Since the beginning of 2023 until today, we have documented more than 1,200 attacks by the Assad regime and Russia on the northwestern Syria region, including 27 attacks on schools and 16 attacks on displaced camps,” he said. “The attacks of the Assad regime and Russia on the region can only be described as terrorist attacks seeking to undermine stability in the area.”

Idlib province, the last stronghold controlled by Syrian opposition fighters, is considered the most densely populated area in northwestern Syria, hosting 4.5 million people, including 1.9 million living in internally displaced camps, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“Within moments, the market turned into a pool of blood and thick dust,” said Abdullah Aloush, a displaced person from Khan Shaykhun and the owner of a nearby shop in the targeted area in Idlib city. Aloush told Al Jazeera that the market was targeted at a time when it was crowded with civilians. “Initially, myself and those with me in the shop were helpless, not knowing what to do, before we went out to check on our neighbours and assist the injured.”

Earlier on Saturday, Israeli warplanes conducted air strikes on Aleppo and Neirab airports, as well as several points belonging to the Syrian regime south of Aleppo. The Israeli air strikes targeted farms between the villages of Zahabiya and Sheikh Saeed in the Neirab military airport area, housing warehouses and headquarters for Iranian militias. A missile also fell in the area of Aleppo International Airport and Neirab military airport, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in London.

“As usual, the Assad regime, unable to respond to Israeli raids on its sites, targets civilians in northwestern Syria,” said Mohammed al-Saleh, 34, the owner of a cafe on the street in Idlib that was bombed.

Al-Saleh, who was approximately 15m (50 feet) away from the bombing, warned everyone in the cafe not to leave the place for fear of a repeat of the bombing in the area and to avoid new casualties. “At these moments, our feeling can only be described as being in the embrace of death,” said Al-Saleh. “In these days, while people around the world are preparing to celebrate the start of a new year, we in Idlib are preparing to bury our friends and family who were killed today.”

Source: Al Jazeera