Syria's main transport artery, the M5 highway, links Damascus with Aleppo. Image: iStock

A young citizen journalist was among 18 civilians killed in air raids on Syria’s jihadist-run Idlib region 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 AFP.

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.

An AFP 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.

‘Wouldn’t leave’

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.

Meanwhile, a cargo train was targeted and derailed by a “terrorist” attack Sunday as it carried phosphate through central Syria, the Transport Ministry said.

The train’s crew suffered “various injuries” when the train came off the tracks in Homs province, spilling the loads from two cars and starting a fire, it said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported the incident, saying a bomb placed by “unknown people” on a stretch of track east of Palmyra had exploded as the train passed.

The blast put the train “entirely out of service,” the Britain-based war monitor added.

There was no immediate claim for the attack, but ISIS sleeper cells have a presence in Syria’s vast desert and have continued to carry out attacks despite losing the last scrap of their territorial “caliphate” in March.

Sunday’s blast comes a week after a sabotage attack temporarily took down a key pipeline transporting gas from the vast government-controlled Shaer gas field, also in the central province of Homs.

Last month, underwater pipelines connected to a refinery in western Syria were sabotaged.

A senior official at the time said the attack was carried out with the help of a foreign state.

In March 2018, Syria granted Russian firm Stroytransgaz a 50-year concession to extract phosphate in the Palmyra region.

The regime of President Bashar Al-Assad has accused the West of waging an “economic war” against Syria.

Shortly after Syria’s conflict broke out in 2011 with anti-regime protests that were brutally repressed, Western powers imposed sanctions on Assad’s regime including a fuel embargo.

The complex war, which has since dragged in regional and world powers including regime allies Russia and Iran, has left more than 370,000 people dead and millions displaced.

– Agence France-Presse

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