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Syria: Army shelling kills seven civilians in Idlib on third day of Eid

Four children are among the dead as Damascus steps up its attack on the last rebel-held region in Syria
Mourners with victims of the shelling in Iblin, a village south of Idlib city (MEE/Ali Haj Suleiman)
By Ali Haj Suleiman in Idlib, Syria

Syrian government attacks on the Idlib region, the opposition’s last bastion in Syria’s northwest, killed seven civilians, including four children, on Thursday, according to the local Syrian Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets.

Army shelling of the village of Iblin in Jabal al-Zawiya, south of Idlib, seriously wounded seven others from one family, including two children. The attack took place in the morning of the third day of Eid al-Adha.

“We were awakened, terrified, by the sound of a powerful explosion nearby," Majd Harmoush told Middle East Eye. "I looked out and saw smoke coming out of my uncle’s home and then heard distressed calls for help. I immediately ran out and saw the bodies of four children under the rubble. 

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“The house was completely destroyed," Harmoush said. "The children and their mother were killed.”

The leader of the White Helmets operating in the area, Hussam al-Sheikh, said that government forces, backed by Russia, have continuously attacked towns and villages in Jabal al-Zawiya in the past several days, in an escalation that has targeted residential areas. 

“White Helmets teams have been facing difficulties in carrying out rescue missions, as we are being regularly targeted by reconnaissance plane, in a tactic aimed at terrorising people in order to push them to flee or surrender,” Sheikh told MEE.

“The pinnacle of criminality lies in the bombing and killing of civilians during the days of Eid.”

'Liberating homeland'

The army has escalated its bombing campaign in the region since Saturday, when President Bashar al-Assad vowed 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.

Strikes on the Idlib villages of Sarja and Ehsin that day killed 14 civilians, including seven children. Two days earlier, shelling of Idlib and the town of Fuaa, further north, killed nine civilians, three of them children, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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. 

A deal brokered in March last year by Russia and Turkey, who back opposite sides in the conflict, has eased fighting on the front line, but the region remains in the government's sights.

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