Syria's main transport artery, the M5 highway, links Damascus with Aleppo. Image: iStock

Regime airstrikes killed 12 civilians on Sunday in a jihadist stronghold in northwest Syria, a UK-based war monitor said.

A young girl was among four killed at the market in the town of Maaret al-Numan in Idlib province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Eight other civilians were killed elsewhere by regime fire in Idlib, a bastion of Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), according to the Observatory.

Idlib is supposed to be protected from a massive government offensive by a buffer zone agreement signed in September, but the jihadist stronghold has come under increasing bombardment by the regime and its Russian ally since late April.

Witness Hamdu Mustafa said he was out shopping when the airstrike hit.

Everybody was “in the street selling and buying,” he told AFP.

“The planes targeted civilians who were buying food for their children.”

Nearby, rescue workers known as the White Helmets directed a bulldozer to clear the debris.

Fighting has raged to the south of the bastion in recent days.

On Sunday, regime forces took back control of the town of Kafr Nabuda in the north of Hama province, the Observatory and state news agency SANA said.

HTS and allied rebels overran part of the town in recent days, after the regime first drove them out on May 8.

The United Nations has warned that an all-out offensive on the Idlib region would lead to a humanitarian catastrophe for its nearly three million residents.

The Observatory says more than 230 civilians have been killed in the spike in violence since the end of April.

– with reporting by AFP

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