War monitor SOHR says regime push "is an attempt to get closer to Maaret al Numan" in Idlib province which Russia and regime have intensely bombed fuelling exodus of Syrians, many of whom Turkey's President Erdogan says are marching towards Turkey.

A Syrian boy sits atop personal effects in the back of a pick-up truck fleeing bombardment in the town of Saraqib, in the northwestern Idlib province, on December 21, 2019.
A Syrian boy sits atop personal effects in the back of a pick-up truck fleeing bombardment in the town of Saraqib, in the northwestern Idlib province, on December 21, 2019. (AFP)

Syria regime forces have seized dozens of towns and villages in northwest Syria from opposition and rebel forces following days of violent clashes, a war monitor said on Sunday, while Russian bombing killed nine civilians in the area, AFP news agency reported.

The fresh advances in Idlib province bring regime forces closer to capturing one of the largest urban centres in Syria's last major opposition bastion, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights [SOHR] said.

"This push is an attempt to get closer to Maaret al Numan," Observatory head Rami Abdul Rahman told AFP news agency.

Syrian opposition aircraft monitors said Russian warplanes struck the city of Maarat al Numan and the towns of Talmenes, Alteh and Aldier Alsharki, targeting civilians. 

Residents of the southern Idlib town flooded out of the area, fearing further advances, an AFP correspondent there said.

Erdogan says wave of Syrians headed for Turkey

Also on Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said more than 80,000 Syrians are fleeing the violence in Idlib towards Turkey and warned that Europe will also feel the pressure of the "new migrant wave."

"Over 80 thousand brothers and sisters from Idlib have started to migrate towards the border of our country escaping the bombardment there. If the savagery towards the people of  Idlib does not end, then this number will increase," he said. 

"In that case, Turkey will not be able to carry this burden of migration alone. The pressure that we will face will also be felt by all European countries, mainly Greece."

Erdogan also said Turkey was doing everything possible with Russia for the bombardments in Idlib to stop. He said a Turkish delegation would go to Moscow to discuss developments in Syria on Monday, and that Turkey will determine what steps to take after those talks.

Thousands flee homes

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

The Syrian regime has repeatedly vowed to take back the area and bombardment has continued despite a ceasefire announced in August.

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

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

The regime forces have since Thursday been locked in battles with rebels, seizing a total of 25 towns and villages from their control, according to the Observatory.

Four days of fighting have killed 103 militants as well as 71 regime forces, bringing the total toll to more than 170 dead on both sides, added the monitor, which is based in Britain and relies on an extensive network inside Syria.

Syrians near Turkish border

Since August, Idlib has supposedly been protected by a ceasefire announced by Moscow, but bombardments have continued.

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

Syria's war has killed over 400,000 people and displaced millions since beginning in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-regime protests.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies