Syrian regime forces have seized dozens of towns and villages in northwest Syria, killing nine civilians who were trying to escape the flashpoint area, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Civil defence crews and locals conduct rescue and search operations around wreckage of buildings after airstrikes carried out by Assad Regime over Saraqib district in the de-escalation zone of Idlib, Syria on December 21, 2019.
Civil defence crews and locals conduct rescue and search operations around wreckage of buildings after airstrikes carried out by Assad Regime over Saraqib district in the de-escalation zone of Idlib, Syria on December 21, 2019. (AA)

At least nine civilians were killed in Russian air strikes in Idlib, northwestern Syria, where acts of violence are prohibited, a local civil defence agency said on Monday.

Syrian opposition aircraft monitors said Russian warplanes hit the district of Maarat al Numan, as well as a number of villages overnight.

According to the White Helmets, the air strikes killed nine civilians in Idlib.

Russian planes also target the routes Syrians take towards the Turkish border to escape the bombings in the residential area.

Following the air strikes, civil defence teams launched search and rescue efforts.

Over 1,300 civilians have been killed in the Idlib de-escalation zone despite a deal reached by Ankara and Moscow in September 2018.

Over a million Syrians have moved near the Turkish border following intense attacks.

Since the eruption of the bloody civil war in Syria in 2011, Turkey has taken in over 3.6 million Syrians who fled their country, making Turkey the world’s top refugee-hosting country.

'Nowhere is safe'

The rebel-dominated Idlib region hosts some three million people, including many displaced by years of violence in other parts of Syria.

The Syrian regime, a Russian ally, has repeatedly vowed to take back the area and bombardment has continued despite a ceasefire announced in August, claiming the lives of more than 290 civilians and hundreds of fighters from both sides.

The heightened regime and Russian bombardment on the Maarat al Numan region since December 16 has forced tens of thousands of vulnerable people to flee their homes, according to the United Nations.

The UN has called for "immediate de-escalation" and warned of further mass displacement if the violence continues.

"Nowhere is safe. If we stay inside our homes, or if we flee outside, we will die either way," said Abu Akram.

The regime forces have since Thursday been locked in battles with rebels, seizing a total of 29 towns and villages from their control, according to the Britain-based Observatory.

Four days of fighting has killed 110 rebels, as well as 77 regime forces, added the monitor, which relies on sources inside Syria for its reports.

The Idlib region is controlled by the country's former Al Qaeda affiliate, Hayat Tahrir al Sham.

Regime forces launched a blistering offensive against the region in April, killing around 1,000 civilians and displacing more than 400,000 people from their homes.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies