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Overnight bombing kills 28 civilians inside Idlib as raids intensify

Four children among the dead as air strikes continue to intensify on last rebel-held area inside Syria
Syrian Civil Defence volunteers sift through rubble after suspected Russian air strikes overnight kill 28 civilians (AFP)

At least 28 civilians were killed in overnight air strikes on northwestern Syria where a planned safe zone has been overshadowed by a bombing campaign against Islamic militants, a monitor said Saturday.

Four children were among the dead in the overnight strikes on the town of Amanaz, in Idlib province near the Turkish border, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Britain-based watchdog had earlier reported 12 dead in the strikes on the town in Harem district around 20km northwest of the provincial capital Idlib.

The indiscriminate bombing 'mainly targets civilians and force of the revolution with the aim of eliminating them'

- Salwa Aksoi, vice president of the Syrian Coalition

It said it could not immediately determine whether the strikes had been carried out by warplanes of the Syrian government or its ally Russia.

But they are the latest in an intensifying air campaign carried out by the two governments against Islamic militants who control most of the province and are not party to a safe zone deal brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran.

The Syrian Coalition, an opposition group based in Turkey, noted the impact the intensified bombing is having on schools and hospitals across Idlib province. 

Salwa Aksoi, who is vice president of the Syrian Coalition, said in a statement that civilians have borne the brunt of the renewed bombing inside Idlib. 

She noted that the indiscriminate bombing "mainly targets civilians and force of the revolution with the aim of eliminating them," said Aksoi.

The surge in bombing raids has also forced numerous hospitals in the province to close, medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said on Friday.

They appear to have been triggered by an offensive by militants led by al-Qaeda's former Syria affiliate launched against government-held villages in neighbouring Hama province on 19 September.

They control nearly all of Idlib province after driving out other rival Islamic militant groups that operated in the area earlier this year.

The rebel-run Directorate of Education in Aleppo had announced that schools would be shut down in the countryside area near Idlib where bombing has also taken place. 

'This is a massacre': Civilians decry aerial campaign in Idlib as children killed
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It also highlighted how Russia had continued to breach the "de-escalation" zone agreement set out by Moscow last year. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed on Thursday to step up efforts to establish a safe zone in Idlib as part of a wider agreement struck in May.

Three other safe zones have already been set up in Eastern Ghouta near Damascus, parts of the south and some areas of the central province of Homs.

The de-escalation agreement excludes both the Islamic State group and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the alliance dominated by al-Qaeda's former Syrian affiliate.

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