01/08/2018, 09.16
SYRIA
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Idlib, explosion hits rebel headquarters: 23 victims, dozens injured

Target of the attack the rebel faction Ajnad al-Qawqaz. At least 7 civilian casualties, but the toll is still provisional. At the moment the reasons for the explosion are still unknown. Several people are missing. The province is one of the last anti-government strongholds.

Damascus (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The deadly toll of a powerful explosion that hit the rebel town of Idlib, in the northwest of Syria, is 23 victims and dozens injured. According to reports from the London-based NGO Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which has a dense network of informants on the ground, the explosion hit the headquarters of an anti-government group. At least seven civilian deaths were registered.

The cause of the explosion, which affected the district of Thalatheen, are not known. According to some testimonies, it was a car bomb. Others speak instead of a drone attack.

SOHR sources report that rescue teams are still engaged in the recovery operations of corpses and in search of possible injured under the rubble of damaged buildings and homes affected. Several people are missing.

The rebel faction hit, known as the Ajnad al-Qawqaz group, includes hundreds of fighters and mercenaries from Asian nations. Its men fight with the militia of the Fateh al-Sham front, a movement once affiliated to al Qaeda, in an attempt to reject the offensive launched last year by the Syrian regular army in the area.

The province of Idlib, bordering Turkey, is one of the last strongholds still in the hands of opponents and rebels fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The government military surrendered control of the area in 2015, when the entire province ended up under the control of the opponents.

However, in the last year the soldiers of Damascus - and their Russian allies - have taken over most of the territory; their goal is to bring together Idlib and the neighboring province of Hama under their control. Idlib, in particular, is of strategic importance because it is on a fundamental link road for the country that unites the capital Damascus to Aleppo, the second most important city in Syria.

Last week Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stressed that the offensive against the Islamic State (IS), the primary objective of the Moscow intervention, can be said to have ended. Now the focus has shifted to the militia groups affiliated to al-Qaeda. However, analysts and experts point out that the transition conceals significant risks. There are at least two million Syrians living in the province of Idlib, including tens of thousands of internally displaced people who have left - in the past - other areas affected by the conflict. A large-scale offensive by the Syrian government could cause serious destruction and trigger a massive migration. 

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