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Citizen journalist among 11 Syrians killed in Russian air strikes

Updated July 22, 2019

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An image taken on Feb 25 shows Syrian citizen journalist Anas al Dyab posing for a picture in the town of Khan Shaykhun.—AFP
An image taken on Feb 25 shows Syrian citizen journalist Anas al Dyab posing for a picture in the town of Khan Shaykhun.—AFP

KHAN SHEIKHUN: A young citizen journalist was among 11 civilians killed in air raids on Syria’s jihadist-run Idlib region on Sunday, rescue workers and a monitor said, as he filmed the bombardment of the battered enclave.

Anas al-Dyab, a photographer and videographer in his early 20s, was a member of the White Helmets who also contributed to this news agency.

He was killed in Russian air strikes in the town of Khan Sheik­hun, rescuers and the Syrian Obse­r­v­atory for Human Rights said.

The White Helmets, rescue workers in rebel areas named after their distinctive hard hats, said the group “mourns the fall of a hero Anas al-Dyab, a volunteer and media activist with the Syrian Civil Defence Centre in Idlib”, in a Twitter post.

A journalist saw friends and family gather to bid farewell to Dyab, his body wrapped in a white shroud.

His mother and father, fellow citizen journalists, and rescue workers watched him be buried in the city of Idlib, as ongoing bombardment prevented him from being laid to rest in his hometown of Khan Sheikhun.

The Damascus regime and its Russian ally have stepped up their deadly bombardment of the jihadist-run region of Idlib since late April, despite a September buffer zone deal to protect the region of some three million people from a massive military assault.

The spike in violence has killed more than 630 civilians, caused tens of thousands to flee there homes, and damaged or knocked out of service two dozen health facilities.

The White Helmets said five of its members had been killed since the start of the escalation on Idlib.

Khan Sheikhun, a town in the south of Idlib, has been particularly hard hit, forcing thousands to flee their homes there, according to the United Nations.

But Dyab “chose to remain with his fellow volunteers in Khan Sheikhun till today,” the White Helmets said.

Raed al-Saleh, the head of the White Helmets, said Dyab was killed while “trying to show the world what’s going on in Syria”. “It’s a great loss,” he said.

Dyab, who was single, leaves beh­ind his parents and three brothers, one of whom is held by the Damascus regime, Saleh said. His family siad he would “not leave Khan Sheikhun except as a martyr.”

The Observatory said Dyab was hiding in the cellar of a three-storey building with two members of the Jaish al-Ezza rebel group when the strike happened.

Also on Sunday, regime air strikes killed 10 other civilians including three children in other parts of the bastion, according to the Britain-based Observatory, which relies on sources inside Syria for its information.

The White Helmets, who are backed by the West, were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016.

But Moscow and Damascus accuse the group of backing rebels and jihadists.

Russia and rebel backer Turkey in September signed a deal to set up a buffer zone around Idlib, but it was never fully implemented.

Syria’s former Al Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham in January took full administrative control of the Idlib region, although other jihadists and rebels are also present.

Syria’s war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.

Published in Dawn, July 22nd, 2019