BEIRUT: Air strikes killed at least 14 civilians and wounded dozens more on Friday in a rebel-held town in northern Syria, a war monitor said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights could not say whether the raids on Orum al-Kubra in Aleppo province were carried out by regime or allied Russian aircraft.

“A series of air strikes on the town killed 14 civilians, including three children, and left dozens of people injured,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

“The toll may rise... because people are trapped under the rubble,” Abdel Rahman said.

The strikes came as heavy bombardment slammed into the neighbouring province of Idlib, held by jihadists and rebels.

At least nine civilians were killed on Friday in that shelling, said Abdel Rahman.

One million children at risk

A battle between Syrian government forces and rebels for the northwestern Idlib province could affect the lives of more than one million children, many of whom live in refugee camps, the UN’s children’s agency warned on Friday.

Food, water, and medicine are already in short supply in the largely rural province, which is now home to over one million Syrians displaced from their homes by government offensives in other parts of the country, said Unicef.

The agency said a battle for Idlib, the last major bastion for Syria’s political and military opposition, would exacerbate an already dire humanitarian situation there and potentially displace 350,000 children.

Syria’s government dropped leaflets across the province on Thursday, urging residents to reconcile with its rule. Officials have warned that government forces will take back the province by force if necessary.

There are 2.9 million people living in Idlib and surrou­nding opposition-held areas, according to UN estimates.

“War cannot be allowed to go to Idlib,” said Jan Egeland, a top UN humanitarian adviser on Syria.

The UN has appealed on Turkey to open its border to refugees, should the Syrian government decide to attack the province, Egeland said.

Turkey, which has established itself as a sponsor of rebels in northern Syria, already hosts some 3.5 million Syrian refugees the most of any nation.

Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2018

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