UNITED NATIONS, May 17. /TASS/. Moscow categorically denies Western countries’ accusations of violating humanitarian law in the course of the anti-terrorist campaign in Syria’s Idlib, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya said on Friday.
"We categorically deny accusations of violating international humanitarian law," he stressed. "Neither the Syrian army no Russia’s aerospace force conduct any combat operations against civilians and civilian infrastructure. Our target is terrorists, which fact some of you opt not to mention."
"Once again, we call on the United Nations Secretariat and its specialized agencies not to rush to circulate unverified information about losses among the civilian population and damage to the civil infrastructure," he said.
United Nations humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said earlier 160 civilians had been killed in Idlib in the past three weeks.
The September 17, 2018 talks between the Russian and Turkish Presidents, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Russia’s Sochi yielded an agreement to establish a 15-20-kilometer deep demilitarized zone in Syria’s Idlib, along the contact line between government troops and the opposition.
On May 4, 2019, chief of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Opposing Parties in Syria Viktor Kupchishin told a briefing that militant groups in the south of the Idlib deescalations zone were concentrating forces under the command of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham group (formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra, a terrorist organization outlawed in Russia). He did not rule out a possible offensive on the city of Hama, the administrative center of the governorate of the same name.
On May 6, Kupchishin reported that militants had shelled the Russian airbase at Syria’s Hmeymim twice during the day. In both episodes, shelling was conducted from the settlement of Zawiya in the Idlib de-escalation zone. Syria’s SANA news agency said on the same day that the Syrian army had delivered a strike on militants’ bases from which the fire at Hama had been conducted.