BEIRUT — One day after a ferocious attack on a market in northern Syria killed more than 60 people, the collective silence from the three architects of an agreement to ease the fighting in Syria has raised serious questions about their commitment to protect civilians caught in the crossfire of the country’s devastating civil war.
Turkey, Russia and Iran are the guarantors of an agreement meant to freeze the lines of conflict in Syria and protect against the sort of horror that befell market-goers in the town of Atareb on Monday.
“It doesn’t seem to matter if we are bombed or not,” said Fayyad Akoush, 26, who escaped from a grocery that was damaged by the attack.
There were at least three airstrikes on the market, which destroyed one building and damaged several others, according to witnesses and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group. Shoppers were crushed under the rubble or blown apart by the blasts, their limbs torn from their bodies or their heads crushed.
The Syrian Civil Defense search-and-rescue volunteers, known as the White Helmets, told The Associated Press they had given up hope of finding more survivors and were still digging for bodies of the missing more than 24 hours after the attack. They said at least 61 people were killed.
“You can see the body fragments in the rubble,” said Yasser Hmeish, a medical technician who was filming rescue efforts at the scene.
It is not — and may never be — fully known who was behind the attack, though residents and the opposition Syrian National Coalition have accused Russia, a chief military backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Syrians are used to identifying planes by their shape, flight patterns and weapons, though Assad’s forces also fly Russian jets. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it couldn’t determine whether Russia or the Syrian government was behind the attack.
A Russian connection would not be any surprise, despite Moscow’s signing of the agreement that was supposed to put an end to a strategy of collective punishment through sieges and bombardment that has left at least 400,000 people dead and displaced 11 million — half of Syria’s pre-war population — during the seven-year civil war.
Since May, when representatives of Russia, Turkey and Iran signed a document of principles in the Kazakh capital of Astana laying out four zones of protection, the Russian air force has been implicated in numerous attacks that have terrorized…