The death toll from rockets fired in the government-held northern city of Aleppo in Syria has risen to at least 11 people, state-run news agency Sana reported on Monday.
According to an unnamed police source quoted by Sana, “terrorist groups”, the term used for armed groups in the nearby rebel-held northwestern province of Idlib, launched the attack on Sunday night.
The attacks wounded another 11 people in the al-Khaldiya neighbourhood, the police source said, all of whom were “civilians” who were “rushed” to two separate hospitals for treatment.
It added that one of “several rockets” landed on a crowded market in Aleppo, the country’s second-largest city and a major industrial hub that bore the brunt of years of fighting.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a UK-based war monitor reported that Hay’et Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) launched the attacks, adding that 20 rockets were fired into several neighbourhoods in Aleppo.
SOHR said that five members of the security services were among those killed.
Idlib is the last remaining rebel-held stronghold in Syria, which has been embroiled in a bloody civil war shortly after peaceful protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s government began in 2011.
It has been dubbed a “dumping ground” for evacuees, and is currently dominated by former al-Qaeda affiliate HTS.
Syrian government forces managed to regain large swathes of land from rebel fighters since Russia intervened militarily on the side of Assad’s forces in 2015.
Since Assad’s government regained control of Aleppo at the end of 2016, armed groups and rebel fighters have targeted the city intermittently.
Assad’s forces have recaptured all rebel-held areas but Idlib province and parts of the neighbouring provinces of Hama, Aleppo and Latakia.
Since September, these areas have been subject to a Russian-Turkish agreement providing for the creation of a “demilitarised zone”, allowing them to avoid a major government offensive.
While Russia backs Assad, Turkey has been supporting factions from the Free Syrian Army – a loose entity of opposition rebel groups.
Despite the deal, Assad’s government has resumed its deadly bombings in Idlib, while armed groups – most notably HTS – have launched numerous attacks against government-held positions.
Prior attempts to curb government-led air strikes on rebel-held cities across Syria have also failed.
Idlib is included in the so-called “de-escalation zones” aimed at shoring up ceasefires. The deal agreed upon with Assad’s allies Russia and Iran at a meeting in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, did not include HTS, Idlib’s most dominant force.
In 2016, HTS was designated a “terrorist group” by Russia. The pretext has been used as a recurring reason as to why Idlib – home to nearly three million people – has been subject to government-led strikes.
The Syrian conflict, now in its ninth year, has claimed an estimated 400,000 lives and displaced millions of Syrians, according to the UN.
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