May 27 (UPI) -- Idlib, one of the last Syrian rebel strongholds, has been targeted by Syria government war planes in the heaviest strikes since the latest offensive began April 30, causing at least a dozen civilian deaths the past two days.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 78 air raids and 70 barrel bombs were dropped from helicopters Monday on the "de-escalation" area of Idlib, which borders Turkey in central Syria. More than 225 shells and missiles have launched by the regime forces since Sunday, the group reported.
Since April 30, 814 people have been killed, including 236 civilians. That date coincides with an agreement between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for close cooperation on Syria.
In Idlib, nearly 3 million residents are to be protected by a so-called "de-escalation" buffer zone through a deal signed in September by Putin, Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to avert a full-fledged assault on the region. But 1,343 people have died in the 100 days after the meeting.
Forty-four Syrian and international non-government organizations, including the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations. have called for an immediate end to attacks on civilians and hospitals in Idlib.
"With no concrete actions taken beyond political statements and promises, Syria and the world may soon be witnessing the 'worst humanitarian tragedy of the 21st century,'" the organizations said Saturday in a joint statement. "Rescue and medical workers on the ground are warning that they have not seen such ferocious attacks in eight years in Idlib. If the conflict continues to escalate, as many as 700,000 people could be displaced from their homes in Syria's last opposition stronghold."
UMCRC, the U.S.-based medical non-government organization, reported 229 civilians have been killed and 727 injured between April 28 and last Tuesday.
At least six civilians were killed Monday and 20 were injured after war planes attacked Ariha City in southern Idlib, the White Helmets said. The first responders were continuing search and rescue operations, the group posted on Twitter.
On Sunday, the White Helmets reported six civilians, including a child and a woman, died and 36 people were wounded in Maaret Numan, also in southern Idlib.
In Maaret Num, the house of Fareed al-Mhlol took a direct hit.
"I ran first towards my mother and my sisters. I took them out of the house where I thought they would be safer," Mhlol told The Telegraph by phone Monday. "Then I ran in the direction of my aunt in order to reassure her. It was then I saw an unspeakable scene -- the wall had fallen on her and she had been covered in rubble. She was dead.
"I don't know what we are going to do now, where we are going to go," Mhlol said. "There's nowhere safe left."
Earlier, the family had been forced to move from their last home after it was destroyed by strikes. His aunt and uncle had been living with them because their home also was bombed.
"Assad destroyed my house and destroyed all my memories," he said. "Assad wants to kill me and kill my family because I am an activist and a journalist trying to get the truth out to the world of the massacres going on in Idlib."
Maarat al-Nu'man has been the most vocal in its opposition not only to Assad but also to ruling Islamist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.
Idlib's populatoin has reached more than 3 million because fighters and civilians have left rebel areas recaptured by the government.
The violence has displaced more than 200,000 people since erupting in late April.
Since March 2011, more than a quarter of a million Syrians have been killed and more than 1 million have been injured, UOSS reported. In total, 4.8 million Syrians have been forced to leave the country and 6.5 million are internally displaced, "making Syria the largest displacement crisis globally."