EHSIM, Syria: Syrian regime artillery fire killed seven civilians including three children in the country’s last major opposition bastion of Idlib, a Britain-based war monitor said on Sunday.
The shelling hit in the village of Ehsim late on Saturday, in the south of the Idlib region, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
A family member said that visitors had gathered to congratulate a male relative on getting married when the shelling struck their home.
Earlier in the day, rockets fired by pro-regime forces killed six civilians in the village of Sarja, including three children and a rescue worker, meaning at least 13 were killed in total in Idlib on Saturday.
The shelling in Ehsim came hours after President Bashar Assad took the oath of office for a fourth term, pledging to “liberate” areas still beyond regime control.
On the eve of the May 26 election, the US, Britain, France, Germany and Italy said the poll was “neither free nor fair,” and Syria’s fragmented opposition has called it a “farce.”
The deaths are the latest violations of a ceasefire deal agreed by Turkey and regime ally Russia in March 2020 to stem a regime offensive on the extremist-dominated stronghold.
An AFP photographer in Ehsim saw rescue workers under floodlights cut through a collapsed ceiling to retrieve the body of a woman.
Bundling her body up in a blanket, they then gently lowered it down a ladder and carried it into an ambulance.
The Observatory said she was among four women and three girls killed in the bombardment.
Bordering Turkey, the northwestern Idlib region is home to around 3 million people, more than half displaced by fighting in other parts of war-torn Syria. Many rely on humanitarian aid to survive.
The region is dominated by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, but other rebel groups are also present.
Syria’s war has killed around half-a-million people and forced millions more to flee their homes since starting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-regime protests.
After Saturday’s swearing-in ceremony, Assad met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, making the first visit by a high-ranking Chinese official to Syria since early 2012.
Both sides discussed Syria possibly taking part in China’s “Belt and Road” infrastructure and trade initiative, the presidency said.
Assad was first elected by referendum in 2000 following the death of his father Hafez Assad, who had ruled Syria for 30 years.
Syria faces a dire economic crisis. More than 80 percent of the population live in poverty, and the Syrian pound has plunged in value against the dollar, causing skyrocketing inflation.
Syria’s war has cost the country $1.2 trillion, the World Vision charity estimates.
In recent weeks, the regime has hiked the price of petrol, bread, sugar and rice, while power cuts can last up to 20 hours a day amid fuel shortages. Nationwide, 12.4 million people struggle to find enough food each day, the World Food Programme says.
The Damascus regime has blamed the country’s economic woes on Western sanctions and a deepening crisis in Lebanon.
Banks in Lebanon have for more than a year forbidden depositors from withdrawing their dollar savings, affecting Syrian clients.
“The biggest obstacle now is the Syrian funds frozen in Lebanese banks,” said Assad, estimating them to amount to tens of billions of dollars.