BEIRUT (AP) — A Syrian army airstrike hit a busy vegetable market in the northern city of Idlib on Tuesday, killing at least seven people and wounding more than 23, opposition activists said.
Elsewhere in Idlib province, Syrian rebels intensified attacks on the last remaining government strongholds, raining shells and mortars on two predominantly Shiite villages and leaving at least 20 dead, the activists said.
A coalition of rebel groups has progressively eroded the presence of President Bashar Assad's forces in the province, taking the city of Idlib and the strategic town of Jisr al-Shughour earlier this year.
The alliance, which calls itself Jaysh al-Fateh, or Conquest Army, is pushing toward the last government strongholds, in the villages of Foua and Kfarya, which are home to mostly Shiite villagers. A large number of civilians are trapped there by the fighting while a nearby military air base remains under government control.
According to activists, the rebels have reached the entrances of Foua, after detonating an underground tunnel.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the rebels fired over 1,400 artillery shells and mortars on Foua and Kfarya, killing at least 20 people, including eight civilians. The Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah group is fighting the rebel advances, alongside other Shiite militias and the Syrian army.
In the airstrike on the city of Idlib, the Observatory said seven people were killed, while the Local Coordination Committees, another group that documents Syria's war casualties, said at least 10 civilians were killed in the bombing.
Meanwhile, Syrian authorities have arrested a relative of President Assad on suspicion of shooting a senior army officer in a traffic dispute — a slaying that set off rare protests in the coastal city of Latakia, a stronghold of the Assad family.
The state-run news agency SANA late Monday quoted Latakia's Gov. Khodr al-Salem as saying that Suleiman Assad, a son of the president's first cousin, Hilal, was arrested at a farm in the province's countryside for allegedly killing a motorist.
Suleiman Assad had been on the run since the road rage incident several days ago. The killing sparked mass protests in Latakia on Saturday, where more than 1,000 people took to the streets calling for his execution.