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Russia launches airstrikes on Syrian rebels after suspected chlorine attack

A rebel alliance denied they were behind the attack.

Medical staff treating a boy following a suspected chemical attack on his town of al-Khalidiya, in Aleppo.
Medical staff treating a boy following a suspected chemical attack on his town of al-Khalidiya, in Aleppo.
Image: SANA via AP/Press Association Images

RUSSIA HAS LAUNCHED airstrikes on Syrian rebels it accused of carrying out a chlorine attack.

“Airstrikes were carried out by Russian air force planes,” defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in comments reported by TASS state news agency.

“As a result of the strikes, all of the rebel fighter targets were destroyed,” he added. 

The airstrikes hit the edges of Syria’s last major rebel stronghold west of Aleppo today, a day after an alleged toxic attack on the regime-held city.

They were the first to hit the area since Moscow and rebel-backer Turkey agreed to set up a demilitarised area around Idlib in September to prevent a massive regime attack to retake the area.

The attack came after Russia accused Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an alliance led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate, of carrying out yesterday’s chemical attack on Aleppo city.

Konashenkov said “terrorist groups” in an area of the buffer zone held by HTS fired shells filled with chlorine on a residential area of the city.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack left around 100 people struggling to breathe, though more than half had been discharged from hospital by this morning.

Syria’s state news agency SANA reported “107 cases of breathing difficulties”. A rebel alliance denied any involvement, but HTS did not immediately issue a statement.

Islamic State 

Counter-attacks by the Islamic State group killed at least 47 US-backed fighters over two days as the jihadists struck from their embattled holdout in eastern Syria, the Observatory said yesterday. 

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Kurdish-led alliance supported by a US-led coalition is battling to expel the jihadists from a pocket in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor on the Iraqi border.

The Observatory said the jihadists launched “three separate assaults” yesterday. 

September deal 

The 17 September deal was intended to protect three million inhabitants in the Idlib region, more than half of which is held by HTS.

But its implementation has stalled after jihadists including HTS failed to withdraw from the planned buffer zone by a mid-October deadline.

Syria’s regime has insisted that the buffer zone deal is temporary and that Idlib will eventually revert to government control.

Syria’s war has killed more than 360,000 people since it erupted in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

© AFP 2018 

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