Medics treat a young victim of Russia-regime bombing of northwest Syria, December 20, 2019

Russia and the Assad regime continued deadly attacks on civilians in northwest Syria on Thursday, as local activists warned that a new ground offensive may be imminent against the 3 million people in the greater Idlib area.

Another 16 civilians were killed, bringing the total since Monday — when the Russia-regime bombing resumed after a break for bad weather — to more than 50.

Most of the victims are women and children.

Resident, citizen journalists, and the White Helmets civil defense reported bombing throughout the day on the city of Ma’arat al-Num’an, a recurrent target. The Jabal al-Zawiya area and the town of Saraqeb were also attacked.

“Double tap” bombing sought to kill or maim residents and White Helmets responding to initial strikes.

Another 90,000 people have been displaced by the assaults, raising the total to more than 500,000 since the Russia-regime offensive in late April to overrun the greater Idlib area, the last major opposition territory in Syria.

The offensive has killed more than 1,100 civilians and wounded thousands, with the UN saying the operations may constitute a “war crime”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “pause” in early September, after the offensive seized part of southern Idlib and almost all of northern neighboring Hama Province. But the bombing resumed last month, as Moscow — despite Putin’s maneuvers with Turkey, whose forces are alongside anti-Assad fighters in northern Syria — continued to shatter the “de-escalation zone” declared by the two countries in autumn 2018.

As the white Helmets issued a statement about the “humanitarian crisis” caused by the latest attacks, local sources reported the resumption of ground attacks.

One said, “All attempts to take ground have been repelled by rebels so far”, even though AssD forces have been supplied with night-fighting equipment.

Even Russian spetsnaz (special forces) couldn’t break into rebel lines tonight.

There are many casualties on the front lines, but civilians are suffering more from the brutal bombing far away [from the lines].