Who was behind the attack on Qah IDP camp in Idlib?
Sources in the field, interviewed by Enab Baladi, said that the missile, which targeted a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) near the Turkish-Syrian border, was launched from the Jabal Azzan area in rural Aleppo.
The camp, near the village of Qah in Idlib province, was hit by a missile loaded with cluster munitions at night on Wednesday 20 November. The attack killed at least 12 civilians, wounded dozens and led to considerable material damage in the camp.
Enab Baladi’s correspondent in Idlib quoted eyewitnesses, on Thursday 21 November, as saying that the shelling of Qah camp came from Jabal Azzan in rural Aleppo.
Type of missile that was fired on Qah camp
Photos shared on social media platforms showed the large size of the missile that hit Qah.
Hassan Arafat, an official who works with Syrian Civil Defense (White Helmets) on war remnants, pointed out today that the camp was hit by a ground-to-ground missile loaded with cluster-bomb submunitions.
Arafat highlighted, in an interview with Enab Baladi, that this type of missile has been used repeatedly in the shelling operations carried out by the Syrian regime forces against opposition-held areas.
Arafat added, “the missile that struck the camp is a Russian-made missile and Syrian regime forces use this type of missile constantly,” claiming that Syrian regime forces are likely to be behind the attack.
The opposition factions in Idlib, for their part, said that the missile was fired from the countryside of Aleppo.
Naji Mustafa, a spokesperson for the National Liberation Front (NLF), told Enab Baladi that the NLF shelled Jabal Azzan with several rocket-propelled grenades, in retaliation.
Mustafa emphasized that in Jabal Azzan, there is a large Iranian military base and claimed that Iranian militias may be the ones behind the targeting of Qah camp.
An Iranian military base has been set up in Jabal Azzan since 2015. Iraqi, Afghan, Lebanese, and local militias, counting thousands of fighters, led by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (ISGC) have been deployed in this base. These militias played a significant role in Syrian regime’s triumph in Aleppo city. And they have enabled Assad forces to regain large areas of southern Aleppo countryside in late 2015.
During the siege of the eastern districts of Aleppo, the base was the command center from which battles were conducted in the city. Moreover, the Iranian base was the launching pad for artillery and missiles bombardment of the eastern districts.
The Jabal Azzan base came under Israeli bombardment at the end of 2017, which targeted the operational headquarters and the command center in the base, and weapons depots. Iran has fortified the base since then to be more resistant to bombardment.
The incident at Qah marks the first time in which a congested displacement camp was bombed. Qah village is part of the ceasefire agreed between Turkey and Russia and is tentatively under the protection of a significant number of observation posts deployed by Ankara in that area.
Turkey’s presidential spokesperson, Ibrahim Kalin said on 19 November that “the situation in the province of Idlib, in north-western Syria is still fragile and that Turkey is continuing talks with Russian authorities in this regard.”
“I would like to point out that Russian authorities have a serious responsibility (with regard to the developments in) Idlib because our agreement for the formation of de-escalation zone is still in place. Moreover, it is of great importance in terms of maintaining the status quo and avoiding a new humanitarian crisis in Idlib,” said Kalin.
Kalin continued, “we have 12 military checkpoints there. The Syrian regime’s provocations and intimidation must be prevented to preserve the lives of civilians who are under the protection of the military observation posts,” according to the Turkish state-run news agency, Anadolu.
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