The Russian Air Force conducted four airstrikes on the outskirts of Idlib city on the 29 March, the centre of the last major rebel-held area in Northwestern Syria. The airstrikes destroyed two poultry farms in the town of Martin. While there are no human casualties reported as a result of the airstrikes, the chickens reared on the farms were less fortunate, with the farms’ destruction killing dozens of them.
The airstrikes came as US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken participated in a virtual United Nations Security Council meeting, where Blinken urged the Security Council to reopen border crossings into territory held by the Syrian opposition during a virtual Security Council session. Currently, United Nations aid earmarked for opposition-held territory only passes through the Bab al-Hawa crossing on the Syrian-Turkish border in Idlib, after another crossing was closed last year following vetoes from Russia and China that risked shutting down the aid program altogether.
The Bab al-Hawa crossing itself came under Russian air attack last week, with it and the al-Atareb hospital attacked on 21 March. Weapon fragments found at al-Atareb hospital show that it was attacked using precision-guided Russian Krasnopol artillery shells, findings confirmed by the release of footage from a Russian targeting drone that designated the “deconflicted” hospital for the shells. The artillery strike that put the hospital out of service killed six civilians and injured 16 more, including five hospital staff.
While Blinken announced that the US will be providing an additional $596 million in “lifesaving aid” in addition to supporting UN efforts to end the crisis, nothing was said on whether there would be any efforts to bypass the current aid program, should Russia and China succeed in shutting down aid distribution when the current resolution authorizing it expires in July. Or, indeed, if the US intends to do anything more about Russian impunity in northwestern Syria.