AFP / Maaret al-Numan
Air strikes killed 19 civilians yesterday in Syria’s last major opposition bastion, the site of the deadliest clashes between regime forces and armed groups since an August ceasefire came into force, a monitoring group said.
More than 100 kilometres to the north, a separate Turkish artillery attack on a city in Aleppo province killed 11 civilians, including eight children, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Syria’s bloody eight-year-long conflict has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011.
It continues to claim scores of civilian lives, especially in areas outside government control.
In the province of Idlib, largely under the control of a group dominated by a former Al Qaeda affiliate, regime air raids killed 13 civilians in a market in the town of Maaret al-Numan, the Britain-based Observatory said.
An AFP correspondent saw rescue workers carry a wounded man away on a stretcher while a body lay motionless amid spilt oranges and bags of onions.
Maher Mohamed, 35, a vendor in the market, said it was the most frightening bombardment he had witnessed in years.
“We ran inside the shops and threw ourselves on the ground,” the father of five said
“They bombarded half the market. Our neighbours were killed,” as were two women in a car who had come to do some shopping, he said.
The Observatory said six others died in Russian and regime bombardment in other parts of the province, including a woman and her two children in a Russian strike on an Idlib prison.
On the southeastern edge of the region, regime forces and armed groups were locked in heavy clashes, with almost 100 fighters killed in two days, according to the war monitor.
The battles on the fringes of Idlib since Saturday are the most deadly since a Russia-brokered ceasefire went into effect in late August, it said.
Fifty-four regime fighters had been killed, while 47 of their foes including 33 militants had also lost their lives since Saturday, the Observatory said.
President Bashar al-Assad has long maintained that his government will eventually reimpose its control over the northwestern region on the border with Turkey..
During a meeting yesterday with Russia’s special envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, Assad agreed to “continue the fight against terrorism” so that Idlib would not become “a permanent haven for terrorists,” the presidency said.
The late August ceasefire came months into a devastating Russia-backed regime offensive that killed around 1,000 civilians and ousted hundreds of thousands from their homes.
But sporadic clashes and deadly Russian and regime bombardment on the militant-held bastion have continued, with 179 civilians including 45 children killed during that time.
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