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Syrian government continues airstrikes in Idlib and Daraa provinces

Barrel bombs target the provinces of southern Daraa and the opposition-held Idlib in the north, killing 24 including children
A heavily damaged building is seen after Syrian government forces staged an air strike in Idlib city, northern Syria on 15 April 2015 (AA)

At least 24 people have been killed in a series of Syrian government air strikes around the city of Idlib, which rebels seized earlier this month, a monitoring group said Wednesday.

Two children were among the 12 people killed when a barrel bomb hit a shelter in the rebel-held town of Saraqeb, southeast of Idlib, on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The government’s use of the crude unguided munitions has drawn heavy criticisms because of the indiscriminate toll they cause among civilians.

A missile strike on a village southwest of Idlib killed a woman, the UK-based Observatory said.

Inside the city, a wave of missile strikes killed 11 men, it added, without specifying whether they were rebel fighters or civilians.

The state SANA news agency cited a military source as saying that the air force had targeted “terrorist positions” in Idlib and its outskirts.

Armed rebels, including al-Qaeda loyalists, seized the northwestern city earlier this month after heavy fighting.

Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday that eyewitness accounts and other evidence “strongly” suggested that government forces had dropped barrel bombs filled with toxic chemicals in the province on three occasions during the battle for Idlib.

In a report published on 14 April, HRW documented the use of chemical attacks against civilians during March in the Idlib province.

Leith Fares, a rescue worker with the Syrian Civil Defence, told HRW that in the town of Sarmin, a helicopter was seen on 16 March.

“We prepared to react to the two attacks,” Fares said. “A helicopter always drops two barrels.”

“You know, we were at first actually happy,” he continued, recalling that there were no explosions. “It is usually good news when there is no explosion.”

However, as Fares and other rescue workers arrived at the site where the barrels were dropped, they noticed that while the destruction caused from the impact was minimal, they immediately evacuated everyone after smelling chlorine gas.

In the southern province of Daraa, meanwhile, the Observatory said barrel bombs had killed at least 10 people on Tuesday, eight of them children.

In one video posted on social media, a mother is seen grieving over the bodies of her three children who were killed by a barrel bomb in eastern Karak in Daraa.