At least 16 people have been killed and 18 others wounded in Syrian government air strikes on villages in rebel-held Idlib province, Syria’s Civil Defence said.
According to the group, which operates in Syria’s rebel-held areas and is also known as the White Helmets, a young girl was among the victims in Sunday’s air raids.
A number of buildings and facilities in the villages of Binnish, Ram Hamdan and Taftanaz, which are controlled by rebel coalition forces, were also damaged.
“The shelling lasted for about two hours,” 34-year-old Mohammed Abu al-Amin, an activist based in Taftanaz, told Al Jazeera.
“Much of the town’s buildings were targeted, including the Al-Noor hospital and a family’s home, who are now among the dead,” he said.
The villages attacked in rural Idlib are located around the government-held towns of Foua and Kefraya.
The latest government attacks were launched hours after deadly clashes erupted between Syrian government forces and fighters from Hay’et Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) – previously known as al-Nusra Front), a former al-Qaeda affiliated group – in the villages of Foua and Kefraya that are home to some 10,000 Shia Muslims.
Fighting continued until Sunday morning, killing six Syrian government troops and at least three HTS fighters, according to SANA, the official Syrian government news agency.
“Al-Nusra Front fighters entered from nearby villages including Binnish and Ram Hamdan,” SANA reported.
Syrian government forces have utilised siege tactics during the course of the Syrian war, now in its eighth year. Usually, it is alongside heavy bombardment while preventing the entrance of food and medicine.
The tool is used as a means to force rebels into accepting evacuation deals.
More than 60 people were also injured in the attacks that took place in the village of Zardana.
Currently, the Syrian government is fighting rebels in Idlib, the oppositions’ last major stronghold in the country.
Idlib is housing an estimated two million people, including thousands who became internally displaced from other parts of Syria.