Middle East

Shelling in Syria rebel enclave kills 7, including children

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian government on Wednesday shelled the last rebel last enclave in the country’s northwest, killing at least seven people, including four children, rescuers and activists reported.

An international humanitarian organization, World Vision, gave a higher death toll, saying eight people — four children and four adults — were killed in the attack, including two staff members from its local partner agency.

The attack came during a day of heavy rain, and targeted the city of Idlib city and two towns, to the north and south. A child was killed when a shell landed near a weekly market in the city of Idlib, according to the Syrian Civil Defense, a volunteer rescue team also known as the White Helmets, and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor.

The shelling in Idlib and surrounding areas wounded 17, according to Ahmed Sheikho, a spokesman for the White Helmets.

In the town of Ariha, to the south, four people were killed, including a four-year old child, he said. In Kefraya to the north, two children were killed, the Observatory and the White Helmets said.

The shelling comes as an eight-month truce negotiated between Turkey and Russia is unravelling. Government and allied forces resumed operations in recent weeks, including carrying out an airstrike in late October on rebels in the area that killed dozens of Turkey-backed fighters at their training camp. The attack sparked retaliation, restoring a cycle of violence that had previously displaced hundreds of thousands of residents fleeing the fighting and government advances.

World Vision said two staff members with its local partner, Ihsan Relief Development, were killed while delivering lifesaving assistance to civilians already struggling with trauma and loss.

The northwestern rebel-held enclave is home to more than 3 million people and remains the last area in opposition hands. The international community, including the U.S., are calling for a nationwide cease-fire and resumption of peace talks, saying no military operations would bring about peace to war-torn Syria. The nine-year war has displaced millions, and killed nearly half a million people, leaving Syria torn in rival areas controlled by different groups, backed by regional or international powers.

Turkey, which backs the Syrian opposition, has reached a cease-fire agreement with Russia, an ally of the government in Damascus. But the two countries are increasingly locked in rivalry over their military involvement in the region.

Photo: Children ride in carts past a damaged building on the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, amid the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in the opposition-held Idlib city in northwest Syria, May 24, 2020. (REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi/File Photo)

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