VIDEO: Syrians say Russian raids hitting civilians
More than 20 civilians and two members of the Syrian Civil Defense, knowns as the White Helmets, were killed by Russian airstrikes in Jabal al-Zawya area in Idlib countryside since Wednesday, residents in the northern Syrian province told Middle East Eye.
The Russian military intervention was described by residents as an "occupation" of their country after what they described as the "failure" of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to quash the popular uprising against his rule that began in March 2011.
The uprising, which was inspired by the pro-reform Arab Spring protests in the region, had begun as peaceful but morphed into a civil war following a bloody crackdown on dissent by the government.
Officials in Moscow said that the airstrikes had targeted "terrorist" positions in Syria, most notably those of Islamic State (IS) militants.
But witnesses in Idlib told MEE that the airstrikes had instead targeted areas populated with civilians, including markets and residential districts, adding that women and children were among the fatalities.
Members of the Syrian Civil Defense said that residents had fled their homes following the strikes to seek refuge in the outskirts of towns or even inside ancient Roman caves, but even those sites were then hit by the Russian raids.
Meanwhile, Abdu al-Faisal, a rebel commander in the Ahrar al-Sham group, said that the areas targeted in Idlib by the Russian strikes have no IS presence, and were predominately under the command of Jaish al-Fatah rebel umbrella group.