Russian and Syrian warplanes pounded towns in Syria's opposition-held Idlib province on Saturday, a day after a summit of the presidents of Turkey, Iran and Russia failed to agree on a ceasefire that would forestall a Russian-backed offensive.
Witnesses and rescuers said at least a dozen air strikes hit a string of villages and towns in southern Idlib and the town of Latamneh in northern Hama, where rebels are still in control.
Syrian helicopters dropped so-called barrel bombs—containers filled with explosive material—on civilian homes on the outskirts of the city of Khan Sheikhoun, two residents of the area in southern Idlib said.
According to a civil defense source, at least three civilians were killed in the village of Abdeen in southern Idlib.
Friday's summit had focused on a looming military operation in Idlib, the last major stronghold of active opposition in Syria to the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan pushed for a ceasefire during the summit but Russian President Vladimir Putin said a truce would be pointless as it would not involve Islamist militant groups Assad and his allies deem as terrorists.
Tehran and Moscow have helped Assad turn the course of the war against an array of opponents ranging from Western-backed rebels to the Islamist militants, while Turkey is a leading opposition supporter and has troops in the country.
The United Nations fears a full-scale offensive could cause a humanitarian catastrophe involving tens of thousands of civilians.
At the tripartite summit Friday the three leaders discussed a long-term political settlement after the civil war in Syria."The fires of war and bloodshed in Syria are reaching their end," President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, said at the summit, while adding that terrorism must "be uprooted in Syria, particularly in Idlib."
The Iranian president insisted Assad's regime had asked his assistance and called on the international community to act against the Israeli attacks on Syria. "There is no escaping the fight against terror in Idlib, against its roots, and against Western involvement," Rouhani asserted.
"The involvement of the United States is illegal and contrary to the UN Security Council's resolutions. We must be prepared for the return of the Syrian refugees and to work towards rehabilitating the country," he concluded.
Ynet's correspondent, Ron Ben Yishai, said that Russia is concerned that the international community, and the UN Security Council in particular, will fault Russia if it takes part in an attack that could claim the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
Meanwhile, Turkish president Erdogan is concerned that another wave of migrants will cross the border near Turkey. Nevertheless, as a Sunni Muslims, Erdogan will find it difficult to accept the massacre of Syrians belonging to the Sunni stream.