Four children were among seven civilians killed on Wednesday (November 4th) in Russia-backed Syrian regime bombardments in the northwestern province of Idlib, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Shelling was concentrated on Idlib city and the towns of Ariha, Ihsim, Kafraya, Marayan, Balshoun, Balyoun, Shannan, al-Bara and Deir Sunbul, said Idlib activist Musab Assaf.
The deadliest salvoes hit Ariha, the Observatory said, adding that 20 civilians were wounded across the Idlib region, which is largely controlled by the extremist alliance Tahrir al-Sham.
"The regime launched sustained artillery and rocket fire in the morning on several parts of Idlib, killing seven civilians, including four children," it said.
Starting in the early morning, the bombardment targeted numerous residential areas in the city of Idlib and its hinterland, Assaf said.
The children who were killed had been on their way to school, he said.
Also killed were two humanitarian workers, he said, as well as another civilian inside his own home.
White Helmets teams transported about 20 civilians, including women and children, to medical centres for treatment, Assaf said.
Meanwhile, Russian air strikes in and around the northwestern Syria province of Idlib have caused devastation on a massive scale, wiping out agricultural production and commerce and depriving children of an education.
Russian planes have been bombing targets in the area for years, but the campaign of violence has intensified in recent months.
Deliberate bombing of civilian targets, including hospitals, by Russian warplanes has killed at least 6,500 civilians and displaced nearly a million, and Russian military incursions in eastern Syria are disrupting efforts to battle "Islamic State" (IS).
The air strikes have caused waves of displacement, with some Syrians speculating that the Russian regime seeks to effect demographic change in the region by ensuring they do not return.
Little sign of Russian deterrence
Without the direct support Moscow is providing to the Syrian regime, it would not have been able to carry out its systematic military campaigns, said Syrian journalist Muhammad al-Abdullah.
Russian forces are directing the military operations carried out by the regime, he noted, which means any military action taken by the regime on the battlefronts must be approved and supported by the Russian military.
There has been little sign of Russian deterrence, he said, despite repeated incidents in which civilians have been killed and international condemnations of Russia for its military intervention in support of the Syrian regime.
He pointed to Moscow's dishonesty, noting it had previously announced that military operations on the ground had ended and that its forces would not engage in military operations, despite evidence to the contrary.
Meanwhile, in Idlib's overcrowded displacement camps, displaced Syrians and humanitarian workers fear an outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), as cases continue to rise.
In late September, a barrage of Russian air strikes in Idlib drove dozens of displaced families who had recently returned to their homes back to the displacement camps, where the COVID-19 pandemic is raging.
"In the northwest, confirmed cases have increased six-fold over the last month, with cases also rising in displacement camps and settlements," Mark Lowcock, UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, said last week.
The health authorities in northwest Syria have officially announced 5,075 cases of COVID-19 so far, including 42 deaths.
Of those, more than 860 cases have been recorded among healthcare staff and almost 330 inhabitants of the camps, figures showed last week.
At the Idlib health directorate, Dr. Yahya Nehmeh said residents had been asked to observe social distancing, though he admitted that was "near impossible" in the hundreds of informal settlements dotting the region.
Few in the camps wear masks. Many cannot afford to buy face coverings or to change them regularly, let alone disinfectant hand gels.
For most, food, water, medicine and school supplies are far more important.
"The regime and Russian forces are responsible for displacing these people and for the disastrous conditions in which they now live," Nehmeh said.