Russian and Syrian jets have begun raiding the last rebel held province of Syria, Idlib. Reports on the ground from Al Jazeera correspondents, members of the White Helmets, who are a group of rescue workers, and civilians have claimed that the recent air strikes have been targeting non-combatants. According to Al Jazeera, after several hours many homes were destroyed and up to 17 people have been killed. Supposedly, people are sleeping outside far from residential areas in fear of future strikes that could happen at any moment. The recent attack on Idlib is one of many examples of President Bashar al-Assad deliberately killing civilians, while facing no repercussions for his actions. World leaders must work together to cease the recent attacks and figure out a way to end the conflict without the continued butchering of civilians and combatants alike.
Syria has been a source of escalatory tension between Russia and the United States for the past several years over human rights concerns as well as influence over the Middle East. President Trump tweeted, “President Bashar al-Assad of Syria must not recklessly attack Idlib Province. The Russians and Iranians would be making a grave humanitarian mistake to take part in this potential human tragedy. Hundreds of thousands of people could be killed. Don’t let that happen!” In response, Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesperson, commented that the US does not have a comprehensive understanding of the issue and that Idlib is a dangerous enclave in Syria. According to Stefanie Dekker, an Al Jazeera reporter, “[activists] saw Russian and Syrian regime warplanes in the sky”. Ahmed Yarji, a member of the White Helmets said that, “Civilian homes were the only buildings being targeted … Medics were able to respond but it was incredibly challenging, especially since the main roads used by ambulances were also bombed.” Staffan de Mistura, a UN envoy, demanded Russia and Turkish leaders work together to come up with a solution to the civilian targeted violence. Mistura said, “A telephone call between the two of you would make a big difference.” Mohammed Javad Zarif, an Iranian spokesperson, told Iranian press that, “The situation in Idlib is sensitive … Our efforts are for … the exit of terrorists from Idlib to be carried out with the least human cost.” The Russian support for Assad still faces the possibility of further escalation between the United States and their Western allies.
Reponses to the war in Syria and specifically the Idlib offensive have been poor across the world. President Trump continues to threaten its counterparts with military force, while the Russians support Assad and assist him in his civilian targeting campaigns. Syria has been and still is in dire condition that has little hope to concluding in the near future. The best route for any kind of peaceful end in the country is to encourage international negotiations among the major actors in the country. Although increased numbers of negotiation parties complicates and elongates discussions, it is better that they take place instead of constant bombing campaigns on civilians. Specifically, both the Russian and Turkish, who supports some rebel groups in Idlib, leaders must work together in putting an end to the Idlib offensive to save the lives of hundreds of civilians.
The bloody war in Syria is reaching its 7th full year. The amount of death from either side is extraordinary and the current Idlib offensive is only increasing the causalities and flattening of Syrian infrastructure. President Assad has a staunch reputation of murdering civilians, while maintaining he has done nothing wrong. Although the war in Syria is seemingly coming to an end between rebel groups and Assad’s forces, there are still powerful, active terrorist organizations stemming from remnants of both Da’esh and Al Qaeda. The Syrian War remains to be of international interest and has been a tense proxy war between Russia and the US among others, which has elongated the conflict and surely contributed to the number of causalities.
The Idlib offensive could mark the end of the direct conflict of Rebel Forces and President Assad, but it will not be the end of bloodshed in the country. Assad’s reputation of heinous action towards any opposition is unparalleled in the Middle East, and he will continue to use force against those threatening the status quo until he faces consequences. Syria has a long road ahead of it both in resolving the conflict and rebuilding the country, which has vibrated from bombing for years.