BEIRUT – Artillery fire from government-controlled territory and airstrikes on Saturday killed at least eight civilians in Syria’s last rebel enclave, mostly children, and destroyed a civil defense center and military station. ‘water, said rescuers and a war monitor.
The regional director of UNICEF, the United Nations children’s agency, called it the worst violence since a ceasefire was reached in March last year.
“It’s just tragic,” said Ted Chaiban, UNICEF regional director. “An escalation of violence will only shorten the lives of more children. We call for the protection of all children and urge those who fight to refrain from further attacks. “
The bombing of Ibleen, a village in the south of Idlib province, hit Subhi al-Assi’s house, killing him, his wife and three of his children in their sleep, according to the rescue service known as the name of White Helmets and Directorate of Health of Idlib. Al-Assi was an administrator at a local health center.
Shelling also hit the home of a White Helmets volunteer, also known as Syrian Civil Defense, killing his two children in the village of Balion. The volunteer, Omar al-Omar, and his wife were injured, according to the White Helmets. In a nearby village, another child was killed and four others from the same family were injured, according to the White Helmets.
Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported the bombings and casualties. The Observatory said the bombing was followed by airstrikes by suspected Russian warplanes that hit areas west of the city of Idlib. The White Helmets said one of their centers was targeted and destroyed in the airstrike, taking it out of service. Five volunteers were slightly injured. A water station in the area was also hit and shut down, the White Helmets said.
The region has seen a rise in violence in recent weeks between government forces and insurgents on the edge of the last rebel stronghold in northwest Idlib province, despite the truce negotiated last year.
The truce was negotiated between Turkey, which supports the Syrian opposition, and Russia, the main supporter of the Syrian government. At the time, he put an end to an overwhelming Russian-backed government air and ground campaign to reclaim the region home to nearly 4 million people, most of them displaced.
UNICEF said 512 children were killed in Syria last year, the majority in the northwest where there are 1.7 million vulnerable children, many of whom have fled violence on multiple occasions.
“The only way out of the war in Syria is through diplomatic means. The violence and more attacks will push the country even further to the brink and pave the way for peace and a better future for millions of children in the country, ”said Chaiban.
Residents of the northwestern enclave depend on humanitarian aid provided across the border with Turkey. The region is dominated by insurgent groups. Chief among them is Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a group formerly linked to Al-Qaeda.