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Civilians killed in rebel shelling of Christian-majority Syria town

Syrian rebels fire a rocket towards regime positions in this archive image (Getty)

Date of publication: 12 May, 2019

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Syrian regime media says that six civilians, including five children, were killed when a rebel rocket hit a Christian majority town in northwestern Syria.

Syrian opposition forces fired rockets into a regime-held Christian-majority town in northwestern Syria on Sunday, killing six people, including five children who were playing near a monastery and wounding several others, Syrian regime media and a local priest said.

Regime television said the shelling just before noon caused widespread material damage to the town of Suqailabiyah. It said the dead also included a 35-year-old woman.

The Syrian state news agency SANA said regime troops had retaliated by firing shells toward rebel positions on the southern edge of Idlib province, the last major rebel stronghold in the country.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, or HTS, which was formerly affiliated to Al-Qaeda is the dominant rebel group in the area.

Priest Maher Haddad told the Associated Press news agency by telephone from Suqailabiyah that a rocket struck near a group of children, instantly killing five and wounding others. He said the woman was killed in a nearby street by a separate rocket.

"The kids went out to play after some days of calm," Haddad said, since the town had not targeted for days by rebels who were pushed further north by the Syrian regime army.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, also reported that six people were killed, adding that eight others, including six children were wounded.

The Observatory said government shelling of a rebel-held village to the north killed one person and wounded others.

The rebel-held areas of Idlib province and northern Homs province have been under sustained attack by the Syrian regime since April 30, killing and wounding dozens while forcing some 150,000 people to flee their homes in rebel-held areas.

Idlib province is home to some 3 million people, many of them displaced from other parts of the country.

The regime, aided by Russia, is attacking Idlib province despite a September 2018 ceasefire agreement guaranteed by Russia, Iran and Turkey. Regime troops have been on the offensive under the cover of airstrikes for days, capturing several strategic locations and villages.

Turkey's official Anadolu news agency on Sunday reported Turkish military deployments in southeastern Kilis province and southern Hatay province, both bordering Syria. The fresh commando and armored vehicle deployments were to reinforce border units, according to the agency.

The Observatory said that since the latest wave of violence began late last month 297 people have been killed.

The Syrian conflict has claimed more than half a million lives since 2011. Most of the casualties have been caused by regime bombing of opposition areas.

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