Regime strikes kill four civilians in northwest Syria

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Syrian government air strikes on the rebel-held northwest killed four civilians, two of them children, on Saturday, a war monitor said, as a two-month flare-up showed no let-up.

The Idlib region of some three million people is supposed to be protected by a September buffer zone deal, but the extremist-run enclave has come under mounting bombardment by the government and its ally Russia since late April.

The two children were killed in a garage on the edge of the town of Maaret al-Numan, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The other two civilians were killed in strikes on the Idlib province villages of Kansafra and Khan al-Subul, the Britain-based monitor said.

The September deal signed by Russia and Turkey was supposed to set up a buffer zone around the Idlib region, but it was never fully implemented.

The agreement called for a 15-to-20 kilometer demilitarized zone free of insurgents and heavy weaponry and for two key highways crossing through Idlib to be reopened. The demilitarized zone has been breached and the highways are at the center of the current government offensive.

Turkey has accused the Syrian government of violating the cease-fire and Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said the country has told Russia “the regime must be controlled.”

Hostilities deepened in January when Hayat Tahrir al-Sham- an alliance led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate- took over administrative control of the region.

Since late April, more than 460 civilians have been killed in government or Russian bombardment, according to the Observatory.

The violence has forced around 330,000 people to flee their homes and hit 23 health centres, the United Nations says.

The war in Syria has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it erupted in 2011 with the brutal repression of protests against President Bashar al-Assad.

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