Suspected Russian airstrikes on the town of Maraat al-Numan in northwestern Syria killed dozens of people on Saturday, according to the Syrian Civil Defense group, which posted helmet-cam footage that shows the chaotic rescue effort in the aftermath of the bombings.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, the airstrikes hit the local courthouse, a prison, and the road between the court and a public market. More than 60 people were reportedly killed or wounded, including civilians, fighters, and prisoners.
Videos shared by the Syrian Civil Defense, a volunteer opposition aid group, provide a first-person view of rescuers digging victims out of the rubble and carrying bloodied, dust-covered bodies away on stretchers.
Russian airstrikes in Syria are an increasing source of international contention, as the Kremlin continues to disregard the US-led coalition against the Islamic State (IS) in the interest of protecting its alliance with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. According to a senior US official interviewed by Reuters, Russia has carried out 5,000 airstrikes since launching its offensive in Syria last September, and about 70 percent of those strikes have hit rebel groups opposed to Assad, rather than targets linked to IS, which is also known as ISIS or ISIL.
"We are not convinced of what the Russian intentions are," the unnamed US official reportedly said. "For a while, very few strikes were going against ISIL. After a lot of public condemnation they turned a number of strikes against ISIL."
Aid workers and rights groups have insisted that Russia has been bombing Assad's opponents indiscriminately, killing scores of civilians in market places and residential areas in the process, which Russia denies.
The US official told Reuters that Russia uses fewer "precision-guided munitions" than the US-led coalition does, which increases the likelihood of civilians becoming collateral damage. "The Russian strikes that are not precise cause me great concern because I think there is an indirect correlation to the refugee flow," the official said. "It is not just the pressure it is putting on NATO and the EU, it is also the humanitarian cost."
Since the beginning of Syria's civil war in 2011, 4.4 million Syrians have fled into neighboring states. Many have also attempted to reach Europe by making the perilous journey by boat across the Mediterranean Sea.
Syria's Idlib province, which includes the city of Maraat al-Numan, was the site of a series of rebel offensives in 2015, culminating in its capture by the al Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front and its allies last March. In December, suspected Russian warplanes dropped bombs on a busy marketplace in the heart of Idlib, killing at least 43 people and wounding more than 150 others.
In December, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimated that Russia's bombing campaign has killed 2,132 people, about a third of them civilians, including at least 300 women and children.
Reuters contributed to this report
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