War monitors, rescue groups blame the government for attacks; death one of the highest since the ceasefire went into effect in March last year.
At least eight civilians, including six children, have been killed in bombings and artillery fire by Syrian government forces backed by Russia in Idlib on Saturday, a war monitor and a rescue group said.
The attacks also injured 16 people in several parts of the Jabal al-Zawiya area south of the stronghold, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said.
Five members of the same family were killed in Iblin village, two children in Balyun village and another child in Balshun village, he said.
The Syrian Civil Defense, a search and rescue group of volunteers also known as White Helmets and operating in parts of rebel Syria, has confirmed the dead.
“A horrific massacre committed by Russia and regime forces this morning in the #Idlib campaign, where 8 civilians … were killed,” the group said. he said on Twitter, adding that search and rescue efforts were still ongoing.
In Iblin, a photographer for the AFP news agency saw the bodies of the family arrive at a medical dispensary, wrapped in wool and cotton blankets.
Nurses and other people prepared the bodies for burial by cleaning up a young boy’s bloodied body before turning it into gauze, he said.
The picture is by Jabal Al-Zawiya. A whole family lost their lives because they had to look at their house with Russian shells. pic.twitter.com/7syaLyNdxK
– IDLIB PLUS (@IdlibPlus) July 3, 2021
Translation: The picture is of Jabal al-Zawiya where a whole family lost their lives due to the Russian airstrikes that targeted their home.
The death toll on Saturday 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, mediated by Russian government allies and Turkish opposition support, are so frequent, that government forces maintain pressure on the rebel enclave.
In recent weeks, Russian warplanes have hit the southern Idlib region in tandem with artillery bombardment by government forces, according to SOHR.
Meanwhile, hundreds of humanitarian workers on Friday formed a human chain north of Idlib, urging the international community to keep open the only border crossing for aid in the rebel region.
“Humanitarian aid is a right, not a privilege,” reads a sign held by workers, while others stood in a street pattern, so that the words “save the lifeline” would be visible from the air.
A UN authorization to aid transit through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing from Turkey to Syria expires on July 10.
Aid organizations fear that Russia may block a UN Security Council vote to renew it for a year.
Wassim Bakir, of the Syrian charity Banafsaj, said that if cross-border aid was blocked it would be a “humanitarian catastrophe”.
The rebel-held province of Idlib is now facing a furious pandemic of coronavirus while a large part of its sanitary facilities are in ruins. The region is home to nearly three million people, most of whom are internally displaced.
The war in Syria has killed nearly 500,000 people since it began in 2011 with the brutal crackdown on peaceful demonstrations.