Syria regime fire kills five in rebel bastion: monitor

Ehsim (Syria) (AFP) –


Syrian regime artillery fire killed at least five civilians including two children in the country's last major rebel bastion of Idlib, a Britain-based war monitor said Sunday.

The shelling took place in the village of Ehsim late Saturday, in the south of Idlib region, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

A family member told AFP that visitors had gathered to congratulate a male relative on getting married when the shelling hit their home.

Earlier in the day, rockets fired by pro-government forces killed six people in the village of Sarja, including three children and a rescue worker, meaning at least 11 were killed in total in Idlib on Saturday.

The shelling at Ehsim came hours after President Bashar al-Assad took the oath of office for a fourth term, pledging to "liberate" areas still beyond government control.

The deaths are the latest violations of a ceasefire deal agreed by Turkey and Russia in March 2020 to stem a regime offensive on the jihadist-dominated stronghold.

An AFP photographer in Ehsim saw rescue workers under floodlights cut through a collapsed ceiling to retrieve the body of a woman.

Bundling her body up in a blanket, they then gently lowered it down a ladder and carried it into an ambulance.

Bordering Turkey, the northwestern Idlib region is home to around three million people, more than half displaced by fighting in other parts of war-torn Syria. Many rely on humanitarian aid to survive.

The region is dominated by Syria's former Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, but other rebel groups are also present.

Syria's war has killed around half a million people and forced millions more to flee their homes since starting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.