War monitor, relief groups blame government for attacks; the death toll is one of the highest since the ceasefire came into effect in March last year.
At least eight civilians, including six children, were killed in shelling and artillery fire by Russian-backed Syrian government forces in Idlib on Saturday, a war monitor and relief group said.
The attacks also injured 16 people in several locations in the Jabal al-Zawiya area south of the stronghold, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said.
He killed five members of the same family in the village of Iblin, two children in the village of Balyun and another child in the village of Balshun, he added.
Syrian Civil Defense, a group of search and rescue volunteers also known as White Helmets and operating in rebel-held areas of Syria, have confirmed the deaths.
“A horrific massacre committed by Russia and regime forces this morning in the countryside of # Idlib, where 8 civilians … were killed,” the group mentionned on Twitter, adding that search and rescue efforts were still underway.
In Iblin, an AFP news agency photographer saw the bodies of the family arriving at a dispensary, wrapped in woolen and cotton blankets.
Nurses and others prepared the bodies for burial, cleaning up the bloodied corpse of a young boy before swaddling him in gauze, he said.
The photo is from Jabal al-Zawiya. An entire family lost their lives targeting their home with Russian shells. pic.twitter.com/7syaLyNdxK
– IDLIB PLUS (@IdlibPlus) July 3, 2021
Translation: The photo is from Jabal al-Zawiya, where an entire family lost their lives as a result of a Russian bombardment targeting their home.
Saturday’s toll is one of the highest since an international ceasefire went into effect in March last year to protect the rebel-dominated stronghold from a government offensive.
Much of the Idlib enclave is controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an armed group that includes former members of the former Syrian al-Qaeda franchise.
But violations of the truce, brokered by the government’s ally Russia and Turkish opposition support, are frequent, as government forces keep pressure on the rebel enclave.
In recent weeks, Russian warplanes have shelled the southern Idlib region in tandem with artillery shelling by government forces, according to SOHR.
Meanwhile, hundreds of aid workers formed a human chain in northern Idlib on Friday, urging the international community to keep the only border crossing open for aid in the rebel-held region.
“Humanitarian aid is a right, not a privilege,” read a sign held up by aid workers, while others stood in a pattern on the road, so the words “save the lifeline” were visible from the air.
A UN authorization for transit aid through the Bab al-Hawa border post from Turkey to Syria expires on July 10.
Aid organizations fear that Russia will block a UN Security Council vote to renew it for a year.
Wassim Bakir, of the Syrian charity Banafsaj, said if cross-border aid was blocked it would be a “humanitarian catastrophe”.
Rebel-held Idlib province now faces a raging coronavirus pandemic as many of its health facilities lie in ruins. The region is home to nearly three million people, most of them internally displaced.
The war in Syria has claimed nearly 500,000 lives since it began in 2011 with the brutal crackdown on peaceful protests.