UPDATE 1230 GMT: Some of the victims of Friday’s Russian and regime attacks on northwest Syria:


At least 30 civilians were killed on Friday as pro-Assad forces stepped up bombing of northwest Syria.

Threatening a ground offensive against the last major opposition area in Syria, the Assad regime and its allies attacked Idlib, western Aleppo, and northern Hama Provinces. At least 20 people were killed and more than 50 wounded in Urum al-Kabra in western Aleppo, with graphic videos of the slain. Among the victims were an entire family including five children.

The pro-Assad site al-Masdar said Russian warplanes carried out the attacks.

The strikes again targeted medical facilities, including a maternity hospital in Termla in northern Hama. A staff member was injured and the hospital suspended all operations. In Ma’arat al-Numan in Idlib Province, a fire was set near a hospital by a strike.

The pro-Assad warplanes and artillery were careful to attack just outside the ring of Turkish military posts set up around the opposition area. Just outside, towns such as Khan Sheikhoun — hit by the Assad regime’s sarin attack in April 2017 — were bombarded again.

The area is nominally a “de-escalation zone”, declared by Russia, Turkey, and Iran last year. But Moscow has repeatedly broken other de-escalation agreements, including its enabling of pro-Assad reoccupation of East Ghouta near Damascus and of the opposition areas of southern Syria this spring and summer.

Russia has used the pretext that it is attacking “terrorists”, such as the jihadist faction Jabhat al-Nusra, to cover its attacks. Moscow issued no statement about Friday’s bombing.

Despite the de-escalation status and the presence of the Turkish military, the Assad regime has pledged to regain all of Idlib, almost all of which has been held by the opposition since spring 2015.

On Thursday, the regime military dropped leaflets across Idlib calling on civilians to surrender.

A pro-Assad offensive took a slice of southeast Idlib in January before forces were redeployed for the offensive in East Ghouta and the Turks set up the ring of observation posts.

Amid the carnage and murder, there were moments of joy and humanity as lives were saved amid the rubble:

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