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Assad forces bombard northwest Syria, kill 23 civilians, says monitor

The dead included seven relatives from the village of Talmanas in Idlib, UK-based activist group says
Pro-government forces launched a blistering offensive against the Idlib region in April, killing around 1,000 civilians (AFP)

Syrian government air strikes and artillery fire on Tuesday killed 23 civilians in the last major opposition bastion in the northwest of the country, according to a UK-based activist group.

The militant-held region of Idlib is supposed to be protected by a months-old ceasefire deal to prevent a broad government offensive, but deadly bombardment has continued.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said around 30 people were wounded overall, including some in a serious condition.

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The Observatory said artillery fire killed seven civilians from the same family in the village of Talmanas, adding that the wife and three children of a member of the White Helmets rescue organisation were killed in the village of Badama.

On its Twitter account, the White Helmets - a group that responds to bombings in rebel-held areas but which the government of President Bashar al-Assad accuses of aiding militant groups - posted a video of a volunteer pulling the apparently lifeless bodies of his family from the rubble of a building.

In the village of Maasaran, air strikes killed a further six civilians.

A photographer for AFP news agency reported seeing a pool of blood and clothes strewn on the pavement by a shop whose window had been shattered.

"That's the regime for you," a resident said, as he helped a shopkeeper pick up some items of clothing.

Pro-government bombardment also led to four other civilians losing their lives in other parts of the bastion, the Observatory said.

Blistering offensive

The Idlib region, which is home to some three million people, including many displaced by Syria's civil war, is controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the country's former al-Qaeda affiliate.

Damascus has repeatedly vowed to take back control of the region.

Pro-government forces launched a blistering offensive against the region in April, killing around 1,000 civilians and displacing more than 400,000 people from their homes.

Moscow announced a ceasefire in late August, but the Observatory says deadly bombardment and skirmishes have persisted.

It says more than 250 civilians have been killed in the region since the deal.

Syria's war has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions from their homes since beginning in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.