At least 90 people were killed in airstrikes that rained down on northwestern Syria on Saturday and Sunday, a rights group said. The surge in violence came just hours after the US and Russia announced a new ceasefire plan.
The airstrikes landed in the rebel-held areas of Idlib in the northwest and Aleppo in the north of the country, according to the monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The worst strikes were in Idlib, where at least 61 people were killed and more than 100 wounded in an attack that targeted a market, an activist who witnessed the bombing and its aftermath told CNN.
The activist, who asked to be identified as Omar for security reasons, said he was in Idlib to cover the atmosphere a day ahead of the Eid al-Adha holiday. Omar took a detour to the city since the roads near the markets were closed as a security precaution, and that probably saved his life, he said.
“We heard a whistling sound then the explosions,” Omar said. The jets arrived around 12:30 p.m. local time, he said. “Two or three rockets landed in middle of the market. We left the car where we were and headed towards the site of explosion.”
Omar said Syria Civil Defence teams couldn’t reach the site quickly because of the road closures.
“We carried 30 people dead from the ground and we transferred some other 40 injured. Their injuries varied,” Omar said. “Those injured, they were clear and visible on the ground and not hidden behind cars or inside rubble. We carried them and started taking them to field hospitals. This is when the civil defense rescue teams started arriving and carrying and helping the injured as well the ones trapped under the rubble.”
Omar said the field hospitals were overwhelmed.
Video from the scene showed White Helmet rescuers — the nickname for Syria Civil Defense volunteers — carefully squeezing beneath piles of stones to look for victims. Cries of “Allahu-Akbar” filled the air when the rescuers found a victim alive and pulled them out to safety.
The airstrikes came just days before a ceasefire that is scheduled to go into effect at sundown Monday.
The Syrian regime announced its support of the ceasefire deal Saturday, according to the state-run TV.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said the accord, announced after hours of talks in Geneva, would prevent Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s air force from flying combat missions anywhere the opposition is present, calling this provision the “bedrock of the agreement.” He labeled the Syrian air force the “main driver of civilian casualties” and migrant flows.