ANTAKYA, Turkey – Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad shelled an area in the rebellious province of Idlib near the border with Turkey on Sunday, killing and injuring dozens of people, opposition activists said.
Around 90 tanks and armored vehicles, backed by helicopters, bombarded the al-Rouge Plain southwest of Idlib city, the provincial capital, activists inside Syria and on the border with Turkey told Reuters.
Fighters from the rebel Free Syrian Army were surrounded in al-Bashiriya, one of about 40 villages in the plain, activists added.
“The army is shelling al-Rouge with tanks, and helicopters are firing rockets at al-Bashiriya. Tens of people have fallen dead or injured but we cannot get to them because the bombardment is heavy,” said activist Mahmoud Ali, with the sound of helicopters audible on the phone.
A major Syrian army offensive to seize back large swathes of Idlib that had fallen under rebel control has killed and wounded hundreds of people in the last 10 days. Thousands of Syrians have fled to Turkey.
A peace plan drawn up by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan requires Assad to “begin pullback of military concentrations in and around population centers” by Tuesday for a truce to start 48 hours later. But that looks in doubt with each side accusing the other of intensifying assaults as the deadline approaches.