Airstrikes on a marketplace in Idlib province Sunday killed at least 40 civilians, including women and children, as Syrian forces stepped up attacks on rebels a day after losing a key town.
There were fears the death toll would mount from the bombing raids on Darkoush, a rebel-held town near the Turkish border, which also wounded dozens of people, a monitoring group said.
The attacks came after a coalition of rebel groups overran the nearby town of Jisr al-Shughur Saturday, tightening their grip on the northwestern province less than a month after capturing its capital.
“At least 40 civilians were killed in regime airstrikes on a market in the town of Darkoush. Among the dead were nine women and eight children,” said Rami Abdel-Rahman of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Jisr al-Shughur was one of the regime’s last remaining strongholds in the northwestern province, and its fall has left government-held territory elsewhere in neighboring Latakia and Hama provinces open to new attack.
Overnight and Sunday, government warplanes pounded Jisr al-Shughur with several dozen airstrikes as fighting raged on the ground south of the city, the Observatory said.
Also, anti-regime activists said late Sunday that the Jabal Zawiyeh region of Idlib was targeted by a chlorine gas strike.
The clashes south of Jisr al-Shughur came after government forces launched a failed bid to rescue at least 40 government soldiers.
State television said regime forces had attacked an area by the southern entrance to the town, “killing a group of terrorists,” but made no mention of any captured soldiers.
State media said government troops had redeployed outside Jisr al-Shughur to “avoid casualties among innocent civilians.”
“Army units carried out night raids against a number of military positions infiltrated by armed terrorist groups in the area surrounding Jisr al-Shughur,” the official SANA news agency reported.
It charged that “terrorist groups carried out a horrific massacre of more than 30 civilians, mostly women and children, after entering Jisr al-Shughur.”
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SOURCE: The Daily Star