Syrian monitors say at least 21 people, including several children, were killed Sunday in airstrikes southwest of Aleppo, as Russia-backed Syrian forces press a region-wide offensive against rebels seeking to topple the Damascus government.
The tally of wounded was not clear late Sunday, but monitors from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the death toll likely will rise as rescue workers probe the wreckage at a marketplace in the the Idlib provincial town of Kafr Nabl, about 100 kilometers southwest of Aleppo.
Monitors also reported government helicopters dropping barrel bombs on a nearby rural town in southern Idlib, and an observatory statement said at least six additional people were killed.
Russia announced in November that it was resuming airstrikes in Idlib and Homs provinces in support of the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
In Aleppo, meanwhile, heavy fighting was reported Sunday in the city's eastern sector, as government forces and their Russian allies pushed deeper into territory occupied by rebels for the past four years.
Monitors reported government fighters seizing two more neighborhoods Sunday, pressing an offensive that gained momentum last week, when government fighters breached the rebel-defended northeast perimeter of eastern Aleppo.
Syrian army soldiers patrol the east Aleppo neighborhood of Tariq al-Bab, Syria, Dec. 3, 2016. Tariq al-Bab was captured by Syrian government forces on Friday.
Deeper push feared
By Saturday, monitors said the government had gained control of about 60 percent of eastern Aleppo, with some analysts predicting the entire sector could revert to government control by the end of the month.
Despite those predictions, Syrian rebel commanders in the eastern sector said Saturday they will not surrender to government forces - a pronouncement that increases the likelihood of a major and decisive battle for the eastern sector in the coming weeks.
Tens of thousands of civilians are thought to be trapped in eastern Aleppo, despite a huge uptick of refugees fleeing the combat zone since mid-November for the relative safety of government-controlled western neighborhoods.
United Nations special envoy Staffan de Mistura, speaking Friday at a humanitarian conference in Rome, said he anticipated a "terrible battle" in Aleppo's east in the near future.
"I hope the battle will not take place... that there will be some type of formula" to end the onslaught, he said.