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Activists say 10 killed in bombing of Syria rebel stronghold

By SARAH EL DEEBJuly 25, 2019
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This photo provided by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows Syrian White Helmet civil defense workers pull out a victim from under the rubble of a destroyed building that hit by airstrikes, in the northern town of Kfar Rouma, in Idlib province, Syria, Thursday, July 25, 2019. (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP)
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This photo provided by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows Syrian White Helmet civil defense workers pull out a victim from under the rubble of a destroyed building that hit by airstrikes, in the northern town of Kfar Rouma, in Idlib province, Syria, Thursday, July 25, 2019. (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP)

BEIRUT (AP) — Airstrikes pounded villages and towns throughout Syria’s rebel stronghold on Thursday, killing at least 10 civilians, some of them buried under the rubble of flattened buildings, activists and rescuers said.

The strikes hit opposition-held territory in Idlib, Aleppo and Hama provinces that is home to 3 million people.

Syrian Civil Defense rescuers, known as White Helmets, reported that four people killed in the village of Kfar Rouma and the town of Maaret Numan in Idlib, while five were killed in Aleppo province’s town of Atareb and al-Bawabiya village.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll in those four areas at 11, and said one more person was killed in Hama.

In video posted online, rescuers can be seen using their hands and a hammer drill to remove cement blocks and rubble of a flattened building in Kfar Rouma to reach those buried underneath. When a young boy is pulled out, covered in dust and his jeans torn, voices are heard, shouting, “God is Great.” He was immediately taken to an ambulance parked by the rubble.

The airstrikes are the latest in a government offensive in this part of Syria that has displaced hundreds of thousands since April inside the enclave. It has also targeted infrastructure and hospitals, a tactic used throughout the eight-year Syrian civil war to empty out opposition areas.

Despite the intense violence, the government offensive has stalled, with limited advance of its troops, helped by Russian airstrikes, into the edge of the enclave where the main fighters are dominated by militant groups.

But the violence has taken a heavy toll on civilians. The U.N. said Thursday at least 400 people were killed in the violence while 440,000 people were displaced between late April and July 14.

Save the Children and a local partner, Hurras Network, say at least 90 children were killed in the three-month onslaught on the northwestern enclave. The U.N. children’s agency says all eight water facilities in Idlib’s southern district of Maaret al-Numan have been knocked out in airstrikes — facilities that provide water to nearly 250,000 people. Several hospitals were also destroyed or put out of service while rescuers were killed in what rights groups called deliberate targeting.

The U.S. State Department said Tuesday the Syrian and Russian attacks that “deliberately strike civilian infrastructure” are an “act of desperation” that threatens the political process. It called for the return to a cease-fire that was negotiated in September last year and sponsored by Russia, and Iran, allies of the Syrian government and Turkey, which backs the opposition.

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