BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian government artillery shells struck a village in the last rebel enclave in the country on Thursday, killing seven members of the same family, including four children, rescue workers and a war monitor said.
The shelling is part of an ongoing military escalation in the area in northwestern Syria, which had been under a cease-fire sponsored by Russia and Turkey since last year. So far it is unclear what caused the escalation, which prior to the attack had already killed at least 17 children this month, according to figures confirmed by the U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF.
The rescue workers in opposition areas, known as the White Helmets, said the shells landed in the village of Ibleen in southern Idlib province. A mother and her four children were among the dead pulled out from under the rubble of a destroyed house. Seven other people were injured, according to the group.
Rami Abdurrahman, the head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the children’s grandfather and uncle were also among the killed. He said the father was injured in the attack.
According to the Observatory’s records, 21 people, including 11 children and six women, have been killed in government strikes on the rebel enclave since Saturday.
The strike on Thursday came on the last day of the Eid Al-Adha holiday, one of Islam’s most important feasts.
Syria’s government, which agreed to the Russia-Turkey negotiated truce last year, has vowed to restore control over territory it has lost during the 10-year conflict.
The truce, covering the area home to nearly 4 million most displaced persons, was negotiated between Turkey, which supports Syria’s opposition and has troops deployed in the area, and Russia, the Syrian government’s main backer. At the time, it halted a crushing Russian-backed government air and ground campaign aimed at retaking the region.