Renewed bombardment in north-west Syria that has displaced 200,000 people and destroyed 12 healthcare centres could have been sparked by Russia and Turkish moves to entrench their zones of influence as the seven-year conflict winds down, according to regional diplomats.
The bombardment in Idlib province began two weeks ago and has intensified in recent days, prompting rescue workers to describe an “unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe”.
The violence has sparked fears of a final, devastating, showdown in the most densely packed corner of Syria – the last part of the country to remain outside regime control.
Hospitals and clinics in the southern end of Idlib and northern edge of neighbouring Hama province have been systematically attacked by Russian warplanes, observers on the ground and monitoring groups have confirmed. The blitz has raised the spectre of a long-anticipated ground attack on the province, where a cornered population of at least 3 million people has nowhere left to run.
However, two senior diplomats believe such a scenario is less likely than a limited campaign that gives Russian and Syrian forces a foothold in Idlib, in return for allowing Turkey to deepen its current zone of control further to the east. [Continue reading…]