BEIRUT (AP) — An airstrike on a market in a Syrian rebel-held town in the northwestern province of Idlib on Monday morning killed at least 10 civilians and wounded others, opposition activists said.
The strike comes amid an increase of violence in Idlib — Syria’s last opposition stronghold where fighting between government troops and insurgents killed dozens on both sides over the weekend.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strike hit the market in Maaret al-Numan, killing 10. The Aleppo Media Center, an activist collective, also reported the same death toll while the opposition Syrian Civil Defense, also known as White Helmets, said nine civilians, including two women, were killed.
The group said 13, including two children, were wounded. It said the death toll was not yet final. Different casualty tolls are common in the chaos of the civil war.
“The bombardment of the market that was packed with civilians led to a massacre and wide destruction,” the Civil Defense said on its Facebook page, which also had photos of lifeless bodies and paramedics helping the victims.
The Observatory and the Civil Defense separately reported another airstrike, on the nearby town of Saraqeb, saying it killed and wounded several people.
Syrian troops launched a four-month offensive earlier this year on Idlib, which is dominated by al-Qaida-linked militants. The government offensive forced hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee their homes.
A fragile cease-fire halted the government advance in late August, but in recent weeks it has been repeatedly violated.
Separately, three Russian military police officers were wounded in a blast in northern Syria on Monday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said. The explosion occurred in the border region of Kobani, where Russian and Turkish forces have been conducting joint border patrols since last month.
The officers were exploring new patrol routes in an armored car when an improvised explosive device exploded, the ministry said.
In October, Russia and Turkey struck a deal in which Syrian Kurdish fighters would pull out of the frontier region. They agreed to conduct joint patrols up to 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the border in the west and east of areas seized by Turkey in its invasion of northern Syria.
Associated Press writer Daria Litvinova in Moscow contributed to this report.