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US blasts Syria, Russia for ‘patterns of attacks against civilians’ in Idlib Province

Airstrike in Bidama, west of Idlib (Qasioun News Agency/WikiCommons)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The United States says it strongly condemns air strikes by Syrian government forces backed by Russia that it says have targeted civilians in the northwestern corner of the Middle Eastern country.

“These attacks over the last 48 hours have hit a school, a maternity hospital, and homes, killing 12 and injuring nearly 40,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said on November 8.

“The latest reported incidents reflect a well-documented pattern of attacks against civilians and infrastructure by Russian and Syrian forces,” she said.

Ortagus added that “we urge Russia and the [Syrian] regime to resolve this conflict through the UN-facilitated political process and to stop waging war in civilian areas.”

In April, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, backed by Russian forces, launched a massive offensive in Idlib, where an extremist group formerly affiliated with Al-Qaeda remains in control of large areas.

On November 8, United Nations human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva that more than 60 medical facilities have been hit in Idlib Province over the past six months — including four this week.

He added that it appears the sites have been deliberately targeted by forces linked to the government.

Russia has denied it targets civilian areas and its forces are focused on assisting refugees looking to return to their homes.

Meanwhile, in Geneva, talks between the Syrian government, opposition forces, and civil society entities have begun talks under UN special envoy Geir Pedersen in an effort to form a new constitution for the war-torn country.

Pedersen said on November 8 that discussions had been intense but professional, and that participants “have started to listen to each other very seriously.”

Russia and Iran have provided crucial support to Assad’s government during the Arab nation’s civil war, which began with a violent government crackdown on protesters in March 2011 and has since killed more than 400,000 people and devastated much of the country’s infrastructure.

The United States and Turkey have backed differing rebel groups in the country, while extremist groups, including Al-Qaeda and Islamic State, have also jointed the fighting but have been driven out of most of the areas they previously held.