Almost 950 killed in a month of northwest Syria violence: monitor

Beirut (AFP) –


A spike in violence in and around a jihadist bastion in northwest Syria has killed 948 people in a month, almost a third of them civilians, a war monitor said Friday.

A September deal was supposed to avert a full-out regime offensive on Idlib province and adjacent areas held by Syria's former Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.

But the regime and its Russian ally have since late April ramped up deadly air strikes and rocket fire on the jihadist stronghold, and fighters have clashed on its edges.

Since April 30, regime and Russian fire has killed 288 civilians including 67 children, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Jihadist rocket fire has killed a further 22 civilians including 10 children in regime-held territory, the Britain-based monitoring group said.

Bombardment and clashes on the region's periphery have taken the lives of 369 jihadists and allied fighters, as well as 269 fighters on the regime's side.

The United Nations says roughly 270,000 people have been displaced by the fighting since late April, and aid agencies have been forced to halt work in some areas.

Russia and rebel supporter Turkey brokered the September ceasefire deal to avert an assault it was feared could spark the worst humanitarian disaster of Syria's eight-year war.

A Russian spokesperson on Friday told reporters that jihadists and allied rebels must halt attacks on regime-held areas for any ceasefire to hold.

"A ceasefire in Idlib is necessary and it's also necessary to have terrorists stop shooting at civilian targets as well as some facilities where our troops are located -- including in Hmeimim," a key Russian airbase to the west of Idlib, Dmitry Peskov said.

On Thursday, Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by telephone told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin it was important to "apply the ceasefire without delay in order to focus once again on finding a political solution" to the Syrian conflict.

The conflict has killed more than 370,000 people since it started in 2011.