Syrian forces ‘target Sky News journalist and crew’ in tank attack
Syrian regime forces mounted a tank attack against a group of journalists and civilians in Idlib province, Sky News reported.
Dramatic footage captured the moment Sky’s special correspondent Alex Crawford and her colleagues were fired upon by a “T-72 Russian battle tank” in the abandoned countryside town of Al Habit.
The five-strong group were “tracked, targeted and fired upon by regime forces helped by Russian airpower”, Ms Crawford wrote in a report on the Sky News website.
As the crew fled the blast, the shelling continued as they were tracked by a drone, she said.
Ms Crawford said one of the crew was wearing a flak jacket with clear press markings and the other was carrying a “clearly marked green medical trauma pack”.
The journalists, who also included Sky producer Martin Vowles, were with two civilian political activists, both wearing jeans and t-shirts.
One of the activists, Bilal Abdul Kareem, who is from New York but moved to Syria three years ago, was injured by shrapnel during the attack and footage showed blood from the wound soaking through his white t-shirt.
Ms Crawford said: “The area we were in was deserted as all the civilians had fled.
“We were spotted by a military drone and then repeatedly shot at with what we believe were 125mm shells probably fired from a T-72 Russian battle tank.
“As we retreated to leave the area, the targeting of us continued.
“Even when we withdrew to the nearby town, Khan Shaykhun, some 10km away, the shelling followed us there and continued.
“They were all clear violations of the normal standards of operation in a battle zone.
“We had just been filming a burning armoured vehicle in an area where there had clearly been fresh fighting when a bullet came in, hitting the metal on the vehicle.
“We had suddenly become the new targets.”
She added: “The intentional targeting of journalists is also a breach of international standards.”
During the assault Ms Crawford was wearing a black abaya, a full-length Muslim dress, to “observe cultural sensitivities” during Ramadan.
After the blast Mr Vowles shouts “go, go, go” as the group flee through clouds of dust towards their car.
The attack continued after the group reached Khan Shaykhun and Mr Kareem travelled separately to a hospital.
“Just 15 minutes after we left, another shell hit the town of Khan Shaykhun and it has been under bombardment ever since,” Ms Crawford said.
“This is what civilians inside Idlib are having to endure on a daily basis right now.”
Ms Crawford explained how Idlib is the last rebel outpost in Syria and Al Habit is at the centre of a buffer zone which is supposed to be demilitarised.
“We saw how the ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey last year in Sochi – which declared a nine-mile demilitarised zone between rebel and regime lines – has been spectacularly breached,” she said.