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Russian planes hit gas facilities and civilian areas near the Turkish border, witnesses and rebels say

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By Suleiman Al-Khalidi

AMMAN (Reuters) – Russian warplanes struck a gas plant, a cement plant and several towns and cities in northwestern Syria near the Turkish border on Sunday, as Syrian army artillery killed seven civilians and wounded 14 doctors in an attack on a hospital in the area. , said witnesses and rebel sources.

Sources said a Russian surface-to-surface missile also hit the city of Qah as Russian air strikes approached densely populated refugee camps along the border with Turkey.

A gas plant was hit near the town of Sarmada in Idlib province and dozens of trailers carrying goods in a parking lot near the Bab al-Hawa border crossing were set on fire in the latest attack on fuel facilities serving as an economic lifeline for a region that is home for more than four million people.

Western intelligence sources say Russia was behind a ballistic missile attack earlier this month that ignited dozens of local oil refineries near the eastern cities of al-Bab and Jarablus in a rebel-held area where Turkey has influence and has a significant military presence.

A spokesman for the National Army, a Turkish-backed rebel alliance in the northwest, said Russia, which supports the government in Damascus, sought to destabilize Syria’s last rebel stronghold and disrupt trade activity, but the attacks did not signal a major attack. close against Idlib.

“Russian airstrikes are continuing. Ballistic missiles have also hit areas near civilian centers,” Major Youssef Hamoud told Reuters. “They seek to sow chaos and confusion,” he added.

Turkey’s Defense Ministry said a rocket fired by Syrian government forces had hit Qah and a truck and trailer park near Sarmada, injuring seven civilians.

He said a statement had been sent to Russia demanding that the attacks be stopped immediately and that Turkish troops be notified.

There was no immediate comment from Moscow.

A woman and a child were among seven civilians killed when mortar shells hit a hospital in the town of Atareb. The Syrian army later shelled the rebel-held town of Ariha.

The Turkish Defense Ministry said earlier that five people were killed and 10 wounded in an artillery attack by Damascus-backed forces on the hospital, one of dozens of hospitals hit by a Russian-led bombing campaign last year.

Videos taken by Reuters from two witnesses showed an injured ward and civil defense rescuers carrying patients with blood. Reuters could not verify their veracity.

Fighting between Syrian army forces and rebels has calmed down since an agreement a year ago ended a Russian-led bombing campaign that had displaced more than a million people in the region bordering Turkey after months of fighting that killed several thousand civilians.

Residents say that although there has been no major hostilities, the calm is occasionally disrupted by Russian attacks on insurgent posts and by Iranian and Syrian militias backed by towns and cities in the enclave.

Syria and Russia say they target only militant Islamists and deny any indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas or deliberate attacks on hospitals and infrastructure.

(Additional reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara, Jonathan Spicer and Ali Kucukgocmen in Istanbul; Edited by David Evans, Giles Elgood and Daniel Wallis)

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