At least 14 civilians have been killed in Syrian regime and Russian airstrikes targeting the northwest Idlib province, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Eight people were killed in the town of Sarmin — seven of which from the same family. The father watched as two of his children were pulled from the rubble.
"I wanted to get my family out this morning but my wife told me to go to work," he told Agence France-Presse on Sunday. "So I sent them a driver with a car to transport their things." However, shortly after a regime aircraft hit the house with a barrel bomb attack.
"It's a terrible disaster," he said.
Four Turkish soldiers were also killed and nine were wounded in the attack, the Turkish defense ministry confirmed.
Turkish forces retaliated by destroying targets in the Idlib region, the ministry said in a statement, and accused Syrian forces of being aware of the positions of Turkish forces at the time of the initial attack.
A Russian-backed regime offensive aimed at seizing one of the last bastions of resistance to Damascus has killed hundreds of civilians and displaced more than 388,000 people in Idlib.
Over the past two years, thousands of hard-line rebels have been transferred from battlefronts in other parts of Syria to Idlib as part of government-backed ceasefire deals. Those transfers have consequently made Idlib the final bastion of opposition to President Bashar Assad, as well as a hotbed of extremist groups.
German officials have called on Russia and Syria to end the offensive, with Foreign Minister Heiko Maas saying the "humanitarian situation in Idlib is already catastrophic and is getting worse due to the fighting."
Earlier Sunday, a Turkish military convoy comprising hundreds of vehicles crossed into Syria and deployed in Idlib and in neighboring Aleppo province.
Turkey — which opposes the Syrian regime — has refused to leave 12 observation outposts in Idlib, saying they are recognized by an agreement with Moscow.
However, the Syrian regime views the outposts with hostility, and in December surrounded one of them in a move that nearly opened a new front in the conflict.
More than 300,000 people have been killed and millions more displaced since fighting erupted in 2011.
kp,ls/cmk (AP, AFP, Reuters)