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Russia says US bombs Idlib, endangering ceasefire

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — The United States carried out air strikes in the de-escalation zone in Syria’s Idlib in violation of previous agreements, causing heavy casualties and endangering a ceasefire there, Russian news agencies quoted the military as saying on Sunday.

The TASS news agency quoted the Russian Defense Ministry as saying that the United States did not notify neither Russia nor Turkey about the strikes. It said Russian and Syrian warplanes had not carried out raids in the region recently.

The US Central Command said on Saturday that US forces hit an al Qaeda facility north of Idlib in an attack targeting the group’s leadership.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said air strikes flattened bases belonging to militant fighters in northwestern Syria. The London-based Observatory said the raids, near the town of Maarat Masreen in Idlib province, killed more than 40 militants, including leaders.

The Interfax news agency quoted the Russian military as saying the United States carried out raids in the area between Maarat Misrin and Kafr Haya in Idlib on Saturday.

US air strikes have targeted a number of al-Nusra Front leaders linked to al Qaeda in northwestern Syria in recent years.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Friday that Syrian government forces would implement a unilateral ceasefire in the de-escalation zone in Idlib on Saturday morning.

Buthaina Shaaban, political and media adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said in an interview with Al-Mayadeen TV on Saturday night that any ceasefire decision serves the grand strategy of liberating every inch of Syrian territory, noting that the ceasefire decision is temporary in Idlib.

“(Turkish President) Erdogan will leave, forcing Syrian territory … This is our decision, not his choice,” she added.

Turkey, which supports opposition factions, and Russia reached an agreement to curb violence in Idlib in 2017. The deal did not include militants.

Under the agreement with Russia and Iran, the Turkish army will deploy 12 checkpoints in and around Idlib. Ankara also supports opposition factions that control an area north of Idlib near its border.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Friday the army would leave only once a political solution had been found, which remains elusive after more than eight years of war and several rounds of UN-brokered peace talks have failed.

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