Bashar Assad regime airstrikes on an anti-regime stronghold in northwestern Syria Saturday killed eight civilians, including three children, a war monitor has said.
The Idlib region of some three million people is supposed to be protected by a September buffer zone deal, but the enclave has come under mounting bombardment by the regime and its ally Russia since late April. Three civilians were killed in an airstrike in the town of the Saraqib, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. An Agence France-Presse (AFP) reporter at the scene saw rescue workers pull the body of a woman from the rubble of a destroyed building. After night fell, they searched for other victims, the lamps on their white helmets casting light onto the ruins in the dark. Earlier, two children were killed in a garage on the edge of the town of Maaret al-Numan, while another child died in the village of Maar Zita, the Britain-based monitoring group said.
Two other civilians perished in strikes on the villages of Kansafra and Khan al-Subul, it said. Being the last opposition enclave, Idlib's prewar population of 1.5 million has swelled to around 3 million with new refugee waves after it was designated a "de-escalation zone" under the Astana agreement between Turkey, Russia and Iran in May 2017 to pave the way for a permanent political solution in Syria. Turkey and Russia inked a buffer-zone agreement in September deal to prevent a massive regime offensive on the Idlib region, near the Turkish border. Following eight months of calm provided by the Sochi deal, the Assad regime intensified its attacks starting April 26 under the pretext of fighting Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) militants holed up in Idlib. Since late April, over 460 civilians have been killed in bombardments by the Assad regime or Russia, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.