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Idlib: At least nine civilians killed in government-led air raids

At least nine civilians were killed in Syrian government air raids in northwest Idlib province as its forces and their Russian allies continued bombarding the last rebel-held stronghold for a sixth consecutive day.
The attacks on Sunday took place in the towns of Kafr Nabl and Khan Sheikhoun, according to the Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets.
Two people killed in Kafr Nabl were Ahmed al-Rahal, 50, and Hussein al-Deiri, 38, who worked as a medic.
Another seven lost their lives in Khan Sheikhoun, including a woman and two children, Ahmed al-Sheikho, spokesman for the Syrian Civil Defense in Idlib, told Al Jazeera.
Syrian forces with Russian military assistance stepped up an aerial bombardment campaign on April 26.
Since then at least 44 civilians have been killed, according to the group.
In a statement, Syrian Civil Defense warned against what it described as “a real disaster” for civilians, who do not have access to safe areas for shelter.
“There is a systematic targeting of camps to which civilians resort escaping death,” the group said.
‘Terrorist’ positions
Idlib is held by an array of rebel groups, including Hay’et Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a coalition of fighters including those formerly affiliated with al-Qaeda.
The province is home to about three million people and represents the last big piece of territory held by rebels opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The official SANA news agency said on Sunday that the Syrian army had targeted “terrorist” positions in Idlib and its surrounding areas.
But the UN humanitarian coordinator said schools, health facilities, and residential areas have been hit and government forces are employing the worst barrel bombing in at least the last 15 months.
Last year, the Syrian government, backed in the war by Russia and Iran, was poised to mount a major offensive into parts of the northwest, including Idlib and adjoining parts of Hama and Aleppo provinces, raising concerns of a humanitarian catastrophe.
The attack was postponed after Russia struck a deal with Turkey that included the creation of a “demilitarised zone” in the region.
Russia is the government’s strongest ally and Turkey backs some rebel groups and has troops on the ground in the northwest.
Turkey has been negotiating with Russia to halt the air raids with little success.