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Lowest monthly civilian death toll recorded in Syria in 9 years

March saw 103 civilians killed, the lowest number of non-combatant fatalities since the beginning of the war
Displaced Syrian boys in their family truck as they visit their home village of al-Nayrab, about 14km southeast of Idlib city (AFP)

Syria has recorded its lowest monthly non-combatant death toll since the war started nine years ago, an activist group has said.

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The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Wednesday that 103 civilians had been killed in March, 51 of them dying as a result of shelling and air strikes by the Syrian government.

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The majority of the remaining casualties were caused either by explosive remnants or unexplained "assassinations".

February's civilian death toll had been more than double that of March, as President Bashar al-Assad's forces continued to attack the last major rebel bastion of Idlib.

According to the Observatory, the number of deaths that month was 275.

The war in Syria has left more than 380,000 people dead since 2011.

The highest civilian death toll recorded in a month since the start of the conflict was 1,590, in July 2016, when battles between rebels and the government raged in the northern province of Aleppo. 

Military offensive paused

In early March, Damascus had paused a military offensive on rebels and militants in Syria's northwest, after a ceasefire brokered by Assad's ally Russia came into effect. 

The Moscow-backed campaign had displaced nearly a million people in the region since December, piling pressure on informal settlements already brimming with families forced to flee previous bouts of violence. 

The fate of the displaced has been a key concern of aid groups amid an outbreak in the country of the novel coronavirus, which has killed two and infected eight others. 

Medics and activists say the number of people infected by Covid-19 in Syria is higher than the official account. 

While officials have played down reports of a wider spread of the disease in the country, the government has imposed a lockdown and harsh measures to contain the pandemic.

The United Nations has appealed for a nationwide ceasefire to tackle the coronavirus threat, while aid groups have warned of a health catastrophe if the pandemic hits overcrowded displacement camps or crammed government prisons.

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