Blast near Syrian-Turkish border kills at least 18; cause unclear

Reuters

An explosion in a residential building thought to be storing weapons and ammunition in Syria's rebel-held Idlib killed at least 39 people including 12 children today, a war monitor said.

The Syrian Civil Defence - also know as the White Helmets - said a blast in the northern village of Sarmada, located near the border with Turkey, "killed and wounded dozens" on Sunday.

Rescue workers used bulldozers to remove rubble and get people out of two damaged buildings.

A rescue worker carried the motionless body of a small child from the wreckage to an ambulance, the AFP correspondent said.

Numerous victims were women and children who were buried in the rubble when the explosion collapsed two five-story buildings in the village of Sarmada near the Turkish border.

An opposition media collective known as the Smart news agency, said the dead included civilians as well as members of the Al Qaeda-linked Levant Liberation Committee.

But rescue workers had pulled out "five people who were still alive", the source said.

The expected offensive on Idlib comes after government forces captured major rebel strongholds earlier this year near the capital Damascus and in the southern provinces of Daraa and Quneitra.

While some have been claimed by Islamic State, most have been the result of infighting between other groups.

Idlib province is in the last swathe of territory still held by rebels opposed to the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.

More than 350,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since Syria's civil war started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

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