By Emre Gurkan Abay
MOSCOW (AA) - Since the downing of its Su-25 fighter jet on Saturday, Russia has intensified airstrikes on Idlib in northwestern Syria, already the site of numerous airstrikes leading to dozens of casualties in an area supposed to be free from attacks.
Intensive airstrikes are striking the area in Idlib where the jet was shot down, according to a Russian Defense Ministry statement.
It said 30 militants were initially confirmed killed, claiming they were members of the Al-Nusra group.
Viktor Vodolatsky, a deputy of the Russian State Duma, said Assad regime special forces are conducting an operation in the area where the jet was shot down with Russian air support.
On Saturday, a Russian Su-25 fighter jet was shot down while flying over the Idlib de-escalation zone and the pilot lost his life.
Over the last week -- including before the downing of the jet -- dozens of civilians have lost their lives, and hospitals, mosques, residential areas, and refugee camps have been targeted in airstrikes by Russian jets and Assad forces in the Idlib de-escalation zone.
Located in northern Syria near the Turkish border, the Idlib province was declared a de-escalation zone.
In the de-escalation zones -- endorsed by Turkey, Russia and Iran -- acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.
Controlled by anti-regime armed groups, the province has been under intense airstrikes for the last two months.
In January alone, 211 civilians were killed and 1,447 wounded.
Syria has been locked in a devastating civil war since March 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.
While UN officials say hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict, Syrian regime officials say the death toll is closer to 10,000.