Beirut: Air strikes today killed seven civilians in a sensitive southwestern province of Syria bordering the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, a war monitor said. The Damascus regime has been pounding Quneitra since Sunday in a bid to retake the southwestern province from rebels, after winning back most of the neighbouring governorate of Daraa in less than a month.
“Six civilians including two women and three children were killed in air strikes near Ain al-Tina” on Quneitra’s border with Daraa province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. It was not immediately clear whether the strikes were carried out by the regime or its Russian ally, the Britain-based monitor said.
The monitor determines who carried out strikes based on the type of aircraft and munitions used, locations and flight patterns. In the west of the adjacent province of Daraa, Russian air raids killed one civilian near the village of Al-Aliya, it said.
“Since Tuesday morning, heavy Russian air strikes and barrel bombs dropped by the regime have been targeting an area straddling Quneitra and Daraa,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a group led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate, is present in that area, he said.
HTS jihadists are not included in a ceasefire between regime and rebels in Daraa announced earlier this month, which has allowed the regime to retake control of more than 90 per cent of the province. President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has advanced in Daraa thanks to a deadly bombardment campaign since June 19, along with Russia-brokered deals between opposition fighters and the regime.
In Quneitra yesterday, rebels in at least five towns raised the national flag, seeking a similar agreement with the regime, Abdel Rahman said. “Rebel factions in these towns have stopped fighting to avoid bombardment and destruction,” he said.
In two days since Sunday, at least 43 regime fighters have been killed in both Daraa and Quneitra, while 48 jihadists and rebels have lost their lives, the Observatory said. More than 350,000 people have been killed and millions displaced by Syria’s war since it started in 2011 with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.