Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Fatal air strike in Syria hours before Putin and Erdogan agree Idlib ceasefire

15 people were injured in the air strike. Credit: AP

An air strike on a rebel-held village in the Idlib province of Syria has killed at least 15 people including children, opposition activists have said.

The attack hit the village of Maaret Musreen - home to thousands of the more than 900,000 people displaced by fighting in the region.

Activists said several others were injured in the strike which they blamed on Russian warplanes.

  • ITV News Correspondent Emma Murphy reports on civilians injured in other air strikes in Idlib where a ceasefire is desperately needed

The air strike came just hours ahead of a meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin where the two said they had reached agreements that could end fighting in north-eastern Syria.

The two leaders, whose nations have backed opposing sides in the Syrian conflict, said a ceasefire will come into force in Idlib at midnight.

Mr Putin, who backs Syrian government forces, also voiced hope the deal would end civilian suffering and help contain the growing humanitarian crisis.

It comes amid a months-long Russian-backed Syrian government offensive there which led United Nations officials to describe the situation as "the biggest crisis in the world today".

  • ITV News Correspondent Emma Murphy reports on the latest from Idlib

The fighting in Idlib - Syria’s last remaining rebel stronghold - has killed hundreds and displaced nearly a million people, many of whom have fled north towards the border with Turkey.

Thousands of migrants and refugees have tried to cross into Greece from the Turkish land and sea border in the past week after President Erdogan made good on a threat to open his country's borders.

Migrants hold their babies as they try to warm themselves next to a river in Edirne near the Turkish-Greek border. Credit: AP

On Thursday, Turkey said it would deploy special forces along its land border with Greece to prevent Greek authorities from pushing back migrants.

It comes amid frequent clashes along the border, with Greek police firing tear gas, stun grenades and water cannon to repel thousands of people.

Greek authorities say Turkish police have also fired tear gas at them in an effort to disperse border guards.

Turkey and Russia are the two main power brokers in Syria, each supporting rival sides in the nine-year conflict.

Mourners gather at the coffin of one of the Turkish troops killed in a single air strike. Credit: AP

Clashes between Turkish and Syrian forces have killed 58 Turkish troops since the beginning of February, including 33 soldiers killed last Thursday in a single airstrike.

At the start of their talks in Moscow on Thursday, Russia's President Putin expressed "sincere condolences" over the deaths of Turkish troops in Syria.

He told President Erdogan: "The death of people always is a big tragedy.

"Unfortunately, as I have already said in our phone conversation, nobody, including Syrian military didn't know about the position of them".

President Putin continued: "During that time, unfortunately, Syrian military was affected as well. The Syrian Army has had heavy losses."

He added: "We definitely need to discuss everything with you - all of the situation that has developed by today - so that nothing like it happens again again and destroys Russian-Turkish relations [sic]".

Turkey-backed opposition fighters transport a fellow fighter for treatment after he was wounded in fighting with Syrian government forces. Credit: AP

Violence has worsened in Idlib in recent weeks, with Turkey sending thousands of troops into the area to support Syrian insurgents holed up there.

The efforts have not been able to stop Syrian President Bashar Assad’s offensive, however, which began in early December.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Thursday's air strike hit a poultry farm used as a settlement for internally displaced Syrians.

The group said 15 people - including women and children - were killed and 18 others were injured.

A baby cries as migrants gather next to a river in Edirne, Turkey, near Turkish-Greek border. Credit: AP

The opposition's Syrian Civil Defence, known as the White Helmets, also blamed Russian warplanes for the strike.

They said 14 people were killed - including five women and two children.

Photos of the strike posted by the Civil Defence showed paramedics using a bulldozer to remove a ceiling that had collapsed over people.

The group said it had finished recovering bodies from under the rubble by Thursday morning.

Step news agency, an activist collective, said 16 people were killed including five children and also said that 18 people were hurt.

Discrepancies on casualty figures are not uncommon in the immediate aftermath of attacks in Syria.