By Burak Karacaoglu and Esref Musa
Russian warplanes on Tuesday continued to strike civilian and opposition targets in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province.
According to local sources, Russian fighters have targeted residential areas in western Idlib’s city of Jisr al-Shughur and the Basanqul, Ghani, Innab and Sirmaniyah districts.
They have also reportedly conducted attacks in northern Hama’s Zayzun region.
Syrian opposition sources told Anadolu Agency that Russian military aircraft -- flying out of the Hmeimim airbase -- had carried out at least 20 separate attack sorties in recent days.
Mustafa Haj Yusuf, a civil-defense official in Ildib, said the Russian strikes had killed nine civilians -- including five children -- in Jisr al-Shughur, while leaving at least 20 more people injured.
On Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump warned of a possible assault on Idlib by the Assad regime, urging Iran and Russia not to take part in the attack, which he said would be “a grave humanitarian mistake”.
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.”
The U.S. said Tuesday it is "closely monitoring" the situation in Idlib, noting "millions of innocent civilians are under threat of an imminent Assad regime attack, backed by Russia and Iran."
"It remains our firm stance that if President Bashar al-Assad chooses to again use chemical weapons, the United States and its Allies will respond swiftly and appropriately," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
She said Washington and its allies will continue to seek "a lasting diplomatic solution to resolve the hostilities in Syria."
In response to Trump's tweet, Russian presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said in a statement that it was “necessary to deal with the problem” in Idlib, which now represents Syria’s last opposition stronghold.
The current situation in Idlib, he added, “remains an issue of particular concern to Moscow, Damascus, Ankara and Tehran”.
Peskov went on to assert that “terrorists” had attacked Russian military bases in the region with drone aircraft, posing what he described as “a significant threat”.
Earlier this year, Idlib was officially designated a “de-escalation zone” in which acts of aggression are expressly forbidden.
Nevertheless, for the past two months, the province has remained the target of frequent airstrikes by Russia and the Assad regime.
*Elena Teslova and Michael Hernandez contributed to this report from Moscow and Washington respectively
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