Syrian regime airstrikes over the country’s northwestern Idlib province on Thursday killed at least seven civilians and wounded at least 12, activists and first responders said.
The Syrian opposition, which now holds only a tiny sliver of the country, blamed Russia-backed warplanes for the attack. Moscow has been a major ally of Syrian regime leader Bashar Assad’s forces and helped turn the tide in the country’s civil war in his favor.
According to the opposition aircraft observatory, four Russian warplanes took off from the Hmeymim air base in Latakia and carried out a total of 16 attacks on the quarry in the village of Hafsarjah and the headquarters of the anti-regime military groups nearby.
The Assad regime and Iran-backed terrorist groups on Thursday attacked the villages of Benin, Chnan and Maklabis in the west of Idlib with ground-to-ground weapons.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which relies on an extensive network of sources on the ground, gave the casualty figures, saying a total of 14 airstrikes were launched, killing seven people. It gave a higher toll for the wounded, saying 15 people were hurt.
At least four of those killed in the strikes that hit a stone quarry and a nearby home west of Idlib city were civilians, the SOHR said.
The observatory said it was seeking to identify the other three casualties.
An Agence France-Presse (AFP) correspondent in the area saw ambulances ferrying victims from the site of the strikes, as large plumes of smoke rose overhead.
The house near the stone quarry was left completely destroyed, the correspondent said.
Syrian Civil Defense volunteers also said in a statement that the area in the opposition enclave was also hit with surface-to-surface missiles and cluster munitions. The sources of the airstrikes could not be independently verified, nor the targets of the attacks.
Rescuers rushed to remove the bodies under the rubble of a workshop in the village of Hafsarja.
"Civilian injuries were taken to the surrounding hospitals for treatment, while search and rescue efforts continue,” Munir Mustafa, the deputy director of the Syrian Civil Defense, said.
”We wanted to try to save the wounded, but we couldn’t because the jets were in the sky and kept launching attacks,” said Mohammad al-Mohammad, a resident of the area.
The northwestern Idlib province is Syria's last opposition enclave. The province is mainly under the control of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an al-Qaida-linked group, while northern Aleppo province is under the control of Turkish-backed moderate opposition groups.
In September 2018, Türkiye and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone where acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.
With Russian and Iranian support, Damascus clawed back much of the ground lost in the early stages of Syria's conflict, which erupted in 2011 when the regime brutally repressed pro-democracy protests.
The last pocket of armed opposition to the regime includes large swathes of Idlib province and parts of the neighboring Aleppo, Hama and Latakia provinces.
Syria's war has killed nearly half a million people and forced around half of the country's pre-war population from their homes.