About 50,000 “well-armed and experienced terrorists” remain in the Idlib de-escalation zone, a spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Mariya Zakharova said during a press briefing on September 12.
“They [militants], in fact, are holding hostage and terrorising 3 million civilians. The terrorists brutally suppress peace demonstrations in towns such as Maaret-Nouman, Ariha, Harim, Kafr-Takharim, Salqin and Saraqib, during which protesters demand that the militants leave the territories they occupy. The terrorists are using firearms to disperse demonstrations thus causing numerous casualties,” she said.
The foreign ministry spokesperson noted that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terrorists “continue to shell Syrian government forces’ positions and to attack the Russian Khmeimim air base with attack drones despite the “silence regime” introduced around the Idlib de-escalation zone on August 31.”
“In the first 10 days of September alone, the militants initiated over 300 attacks and made another attempt to attack Khmeimim on September 3 using two unmanned aerial vehicles. Such aggressive raids by the terrorists have led to civilian casualties in nearby towns and among Syrian troops. So, about 150 Syrian troops have been killed and over 470 people have been injured in Idlib over the past month alone. About 50 civilians have died and over 100 were injured as a result of the shelling by terrorists,” Zakharova noted.
She added that “an arbitrary US airstrike against the presumed location of terrorists in the vicinity of Idlib on August 31” led to “numerous casualties, including children, and destruction”. The diplomat described this as “an alarming signal.”
“In addition, this unilateral US military action actually threatened the moratorium on hostilities introduced on the same day. We believe that such strikes will not resolve the problem of the massive terrorist presence in Idlib, but may well undermine efforts to stabilise the situation,” Zakharova said.
“For our part, we are convinced that long-term stabilisation and security in Idlib are possible only through a return to full compliance with the Sochi Memorandum of September 17, 2018. This primarily concerns creating a demilitarised space along the internal perimeter of the de-escalation zone and neutralising the terrorist threat.”
Additionally, Zakharova described the situation in northeastern Syria as “volatile”.
“The terrorist underground and the so-called ISIS sleeper cells have stepped up their activities as well. A particularly disturbing situation has developed in the Al-Hawl camp for internally displaced persons. Despite the efforts of international humanitarian workers, the camp residents are in need of emergency help, and the situation in the camp continues to degrade. ISIS terrorists who infiltrated Al-Hawl under the guise of refugees are taking advantage of this situation, spreading radical ideology and getting away with crimes. On September 5, Kurdish guards were attacked in the camp, with two people killed and two more wounded. The delay in resolving the Al-Hawl problem is fraught not only with the disastrous deterioration of the humanitarian situation there, but also with the flight of ISIS members from this camp to other parts of Syria and beyond,” the diplomat said.
“Clashes between Kurdish units and Sunni Arabs, which protest against the authoritarian rule of Kurdish administrations, in particular, the mandatory service in the Syrian Democratic Forces, continue unabated. Over 60 such clashes have occurred in August alone, leaving about 60 Kurds dead and about 70 wounded.“
At the same time, Russia in coordination with the Syrian authorities and representatives of the UN and the Syrian Red Crescent Society, “continue to work on resolving the IDP camp Rukban problem. Humanitarian aid was delivered to the camp in early September, and the evacuation of civilians was planned for mid-September. Thus, we expect that civilians will leave Rukban by late September, and the camp itself will be disbanded and cleaned up.”
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