At least 11 people have been killed in a Syrian army shelling of residential areas of the rebel-held city of Ariha in Idlib province, according to witnesses and rescue workers.
Wednesday’s shelling from Syrian army outposts, which came shortly after a roadside bomb killed at least 14 military personnel in Damascus, fell on residential areas in the city in Idlib.
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Among the casualties were several school children, witnesses and medical workers in the opposition enclave were cited as saying by the news agency Reuters.
United Nations children’s agency UNICEF confirmed the death of four children in the bombardment.
“Today’s violence is yet another reminder that the war in Syria has not come to an end. Civilians, among them many children, keep bearing the brunt of a brutal decade-long conflict,” it said in a statement.
Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency said government forces and Iran-backed groups targeted a market place in the Ariha town centre.
Wednesday’s bombardment was one of the deadliest to rattle an Idlib truce deal that was reached in March 2020 and brokered by Turkey and Russia, the two main foreign brokers in the conflict.
The Idlib region is the last part of the country that has not fallen under government control, more than a decade into Syria’s war.
Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from Beirut, the capital of neighbouring Lebanon, said the bombardment was being interpreted by some as “a retaliation” for Wednesday’s attack in Damascus.
“This is being seen as some sort of a retaliation on the part of the regime even though this area (Idlib) comes under regular fire despite the ceasefire that has been in place since last year,” she said.
Joseph Daher, an affiliate professor with the Wartime and Post-Conflict in Syria project at the European University Institute, told Al Jazeera: “This is not the first time the government has not respected a ceasefire … The Syrian regime has made it very clear that it wants to take back all territories in Syria, and Idlib and this region has been bombarded for months.”