Supported by air strikes by Russia's ally, troops from the Syrian government led by President Bashar al-Assad had fought bitter skirmishes with rebels in Idlib over the weekend, the Syrian Observatory on Human Rights said.
Syrian and Russian jets bombed a market in Marat al-Numan, a market in Sarakib and another place. According to the Observatory for Human Rights, at least 15 civilians were killed and 18 others injured. The rescue organization Weisshelme published photos and videos showing a market in ruins and victims and seriously injured.
The Idlib province is one of the last areas of Syria still controlled by Islamist insurgents. The rebel territory is controlled by the al-Qaeda-affiliated militia Haiat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). There are also rebels of the pro-Turkish Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the pro-Turkish opposition National Army active. Their units had united in early October under a joint military leadership.
For months, the Assad government has been trying, with the support of Russia, to take control of the country's last major rebel stronghold after eight years of war. At the end of April, government forces launched an offensive against Idlib and neighboring Hama, conquering important areas. Syria and Russia argue with the attacks to fight terrorists.
In the attacks civilians are killed again and again. Markets and civilian facilities such as clinics have been the target of several air raids. In one of the worst bombardments on a market in Idlib, dozens of aircraft had killed more than 60 people in the autumn of 2016 due to air raids. Thousands of people took refuge in the course of the fighting.
The death toll over the weekend was the highest since the ceasefire came into effect in August, activists from the Observatory for Human Rights said. The observatory spoke of hundreds of air raids since Friday.
Since the start of the April offensive, more than 4,600 people have been killed, including more than 1,200 civilians. Residents were again displaced by the fighting and air raids that had fled towards the Syrian-Turkish border.
Civilians have also been victims of hostilities in the Kurdish militia-controlled border region to Turkey in northern Syria. When attacked by Turkish troops and their allies, eight children and one man were killed, according to activists.
The shells were struck near a school in Tall Rifat, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. 21 people were injured. A source at the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) confirmed the bombardment.
In Syria, according to the German government, there is currently no region where refugees can return without risk. This emerges from a written by the Foreign Office internal report, which is the DPA news agency.
Above all, returnees who are known as oppositional or regime-critical are subject to renewed expulsion, sanctions or imminent danger to their lives, it says. "The regime can basically continue to carry out air strikes across the country," the report said.