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26 Syrian civilians killed as Assad strikes 'populated areas'

Syrian government air strikes come following 'steady progress' made by rebels in Daraa province
Syrian Civil Defence workers carry the body of a child on 1 February, 2015, following a reported air strike by Syrian government forces in the northern city of Aleppo (AFP)

Syrian government air strikes on an opposition-held town killed at least 16 civilians in the southern province of Daraa on Monday, a monitoring group said.

The deaths were a result of "four regime air strikes on Jassem in Daraa province", which left more than 25 others wounded, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The strikes come as a major rebel offensive has been underway in southern Syria for months.

"As usual, the regime is striking populated areas in order to make civilian supporters of opposition fighters turn against them," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.

While rebels have suffered a spate of defeats at the hands of government forces, they still have the upper hand in Daraa.

"Opposition fighters are making steady progress in Daraa province. The vast majority of the west of the province has completely fallen out of government control, and that is where Jassem is located," Abdel Rahman said.

Rebels in the area benefit from "the fact that supply lines from Jordan are still open," he added.

The involvement of experienced fighters of Syria's al-Qaeda affiliate, the al-Nusra Front, has also helped the rebels win territory in Daraa.

Elsewhere, air strikes on the besieged, rebel-held town of Douma east of Damascus killed at least 10 civilians, the Observatory said.

An AFP photographer in Douma said the strikes hit residential areas and that most of the wounded were children.

The Assad government first deployed warplanes in the Syrian war in July 2012. 

Now, nearly four years into the conflict, there are air strikes every day, despite repeated warnings from the international community that such tactics fail to discriminate between civilian and military targets.

Syria's civil war began in March 2011 as a peaceful protest movement inspired by the pro-democracy Arab Spring and demanding the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad, but morphed into a brutal war after pro-Assad forces unleashed a massive crackdown against dissent.

The war has resulted in the deaths of an estimated 200,000 people, and displaced roughly half of the country's population, according to the UN. 

The majority of fatalities are reportedly of civilians, primarily killed by pro-Assad forces, although other groups are also implicated.