Syria: Government shelling kills four children in Hama
Government attacks killed four children in the last major rebel-held area in northwestern Syria late on Saturday, after a week of relative calm in the region, the Syrian Civil Defence (White Helmets) said.
The artillery fire hit a residential area in the village of Qastoun in al-Ghab Plain, west of Hama province, wounding five people. The victims were from the same family, the organisation said. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, confirming the deaths, reported that five other members of the same family were injured.
"It was difficult for the White Helmets team to reach the neighbourhood due to the government's monitoring of the area and its repeated targeting of the roads, and the long distance between medical points from the targeted area," Hassan Hashoum, a media spokesperson for the civil defence in Qastoun, told Middle East Eye.
Suleiman Bseis, a resident of Qastoun, said government forces attacked the village with three shells that fell on the house of Abdel-Baset al-Naasan, wounding three children, including Aziza, Naasan's daughter, whose foot was amputated.
"Sahl al-Ghab is being continuously targeted, and it lacks a medical centre. The nearest medical point is in Jisr al-Shughour [18 km away]," Bseis told MEE.
The government escalated its attacks on the rebel bastion in northwest Syria in June and July, with President Bashar al-Assad vowing to make "liberating those parts of the homeland that still need to be" one of his top priorities, as he took the oath of office for a new term last month.
Nearly three million people, two-thirds of whom are internally displaced people from across Syria, live in the Idlib region, which is controlled by the Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham alliance of Islamist militant groups. Rebels and other Islamist militants are also present in the area.
A deal brokered in March last year by Russia and Turkey, which back opposite sides in the conflict, has eased fighting on the front line, but the region remains in the government's sights.
Around half a million people have been killed in Syria's war since 2011, when the government brutally cracked down on anti-government protests.
AFP contributed to this report.
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