At least nine civilians were killed and more than 34 wounded after Russian warplanes carried out numerous air strikes on Idlib in northwestern Syria, including a market crowded with shoppers, according to a group of emergency rescue volunteers.
The attack on Sunday targeted a vegetable market in the city of Jisr al-Shughour city, in the eastern Idlib countryside, said the Syria Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets.
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A local monitor told Al Jazeera that two Russian Su-24s targeted Idlib city, Benin town and the al-Arbeen mountain area with five strikes, while a Russian Su-34 hit the market in Jisr al-Shughour.
“During our work today at the vegetable market, we were startled by an air strike that targeted the market where we were present, turning [it] into a pool of blood and the remains of victims,” said Reda Hayshid, a 21-year-old vegetable vendor.
Ahmed Yazji, who is on the Syria Civil Defence’s board of directors, said: “In general, the Syrian regime and Russian attacks on the region have witnessed an escalation in the last few days, which puts a huge burden on our work because both [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad and Russia are known to double attack areas where we are present while trying to rescue the victims and the injured.”
Hayshid told Al Jazeera that the vegetable market in Jisr al-Shughour is considered a central one for most farmers in the area and its outskirts, who sell their crops there daily.
“The scenes of my friends whom I used to see daily in this market continue to haunt my imagination as some of them were taking their last breaths, while others have lost their limbs due to the air strike,” Hayshid said.
“[The] Assad regime and Russia are fighting us, even our … means of sustenance, and they care only about inflicting the highest possible number of casualties and injuries.”
Rami Jaafar, who was buying groceries at the market, left a mere 10 minutes before the bombing. He rushed back after the attack to check on his relatives who were working in the market.
“On my way back home with my family, we heard the sound of an explosion coming from the direction of the vegetable market. I quickly secured my family in one of the houses in Jisr al-Shughour and rushed to the market to check on my cousins who were there,” Jaafar said.
“The place was filled with dust, the smell of blood and gunpowder permeating the air. There was no sound except for the moans of the wounded and the ambulances that transported my cousins to the hospital,” he added.
Syrian forces, supported by Russia, also heavily shelled the outskirts of Sarja and Al-Rawihah towns in southern Idlib. There have been six consecutive days of relentless bombardment in parts of northwestern Syria, which lies along the border with Turkey.
Damascus and Moscow have in the past claimed that they only target insurgent groups.
“We strongly condemn the direct targeting of civilians within cities and villages by [the] Syrian regime and Russia, as it leads to the displacement of their populations in an attempt to create demographic changes in the region,” said Obaida Dandoush, a field operations manager with the Syria Response Coordination Group, a local humanitarian organisation.