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Syrian White Helmet civil defence workers search for victims in the rubble of a destroyed building that was hit by airstrikes in Idlib province, Syria, on Thursday.The Associated Press

More children have been killed in the Idlib region of northwestern Syria in the last four weeks than in all of 2018, says a new report from Save the Children and its partner organization Hurras Network, as bloodshed continues into the conflict’s ninth year.

Intense shelling escalated in Idlib province at the end of April, as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime supported by Russian forces wages its violent campaign against rebels in the final opposition stronghold in the country. The aid groups said the escalated violence has resulted in the deaths of at least 400 people, including 90 children, and that 440,000 people have been displaced.

At least 33 children have been killed since June 24th, the report said, while 31 children were killed during all of 2018. This week has been the deadliest since the fighting escalated, with multiple air strikes and bombings killing 66 people and leaving hundreds injured.

Adam Austen, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, said that Canada is “horrified” by the report, and condemned the Assad regime.

“The horrific and deliberate targeting of civilians – including children – as well as medical facilities, hospitals, schools, first responders and humanitarian workers by the Assad regime and its allies is appalling and violates international humanitarian law,” he said.

Mr. Austen said Canada calls on all parties to abide by their commitments, de-escalate the violence in Idlib, adhere to their human-rights obligations and allow for full and safe humanitarian access.

The report numbers come from Save The Children’s partner on the ground, Hurras Network, which documents and verifies every single death, according to Save The Children regional media manager for Middle East and Eastern Europe Joelle Bassoul.

Ms. Bassoul described the situation as “horrific” in an interview over the phone from Beirut. She said even Thursday there have been more air strikes and they are expected to continue.

Khaled Khattab, a member of the Syrian White Helmets, a volunteer rescue group, said the people in Idlib are “killed daily by planes and missiles.”

“The Assad regime and Russia are waging a war against civilians. The situation in Idlib is catastrophic,” he said in a message from Idlib.

Mr. Khattab has been tweeting disturbing images of the volunteer group carrying children from the rubble. “When the children are rescued from the rubble we feel happy and at the same time feel that no one cares about us,” he said.

Save The Children’s Ms. Bassoul said that three million people are living in Idlib, many who have already been displaced from other parts of the country, and children make up one third of the population.

“With an increase in the death toll among adults and children … many children are going to be orphaned, are going to find themselves alone,” she said. “The future generation of Syria is going to carry the weight of this conflict for a long time and the protection of children and civilians needs to be at the heart of any political discussions.”

There are many families, she said, living in open fields under trees without access to clean water, food or sanitation, heightening the risk of disease.

Mr. Khattab said that since the beginning of April, more than 375 children were killed and about 275 women.

Ms. Bassoul also noted that infrastructure such as medical facilities and schools continue to be targeted. Eight water facilities in southern Idlib that provided drinking water for about 250,000 people in the area were targeted by Assad regime forces in the past two months, according to The United Nations Children Fund.

David Swanson, a spokesman for the United Nation’s regional office for the Syrian crisis based in Amman, Jordan, said the three million people living in Idlib are “trapped” in the crossfire.

Mr. Swanson said in many ways, the world has become “somewhat mute” to what is happening in Syria, and their impression can be that the war is over. But he said since the end of April, there has been a dramatic escalation of violence, with constant shelling, air strikes and barrel bombs in the province.

“Idlib continues to be a stark reminder to the world that the war in Syria, which is now in its ninth year, is far from over,” he said.

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