JISR AL-SHUGHUR -- Four young children were among at least seven civilians killed Friday (July 22) in a Russian air strike on Syria's opposition-held Idlib province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The four children who were killed are siblings -- three girls and a boy -- and all of them are under the age of 10, the Observatory said.
Two men and one unidentified person also were killed as a result of Russian air strikes in the countryside surrounding Jisr al-Shughur, it said.
The White Helmets rescue group gave the same figures and said another dozen people, among them eight children, had been wounded in the strikes.
Ayhman Mozan, 31, lost all four of his children in the destruction of his house.
"My children are gone… the dearest people to my heart are gone," he said, breaking down in tears as he called out his children’s names.
He and his family were sleeping when the first strike hit their home, he said, lying in a hospital bed in the border city of Darkush.
He helped rescue his wife from under the rubble, but when he looked for his children, he could not find them.
In a video the White Helmets posted on Twitter Friday, two women weep over the bodies of the children, who are lying side by side, tucked beneath a blanket, and tenderly caress their faces.
Two men kneel before the children, covering their faces with their hands in grief.
"A family grieves the loss of 4 innocent little souls taken too early from this world," the White Helmets says in the accompanying text. "The Syrian tragedy continues, and the innocent pay the highest price."
In the same video, three other young children can be seen, lying in hospital beds. One child cries in pain and distress, another appears dazed and another unresponsive, his head and eyes wrapped in a white bandage.
'Beautiful little souls'
Originally from neighbouring Hama province, the four children and most of the other victims were internally displaced persons (IDPs) who had been forced to flee their home by Syrian regime and Russian air strikes.
The house where the four siblings lived, after relocating for their supposed safety, was destroyed, an AFP correspondent at the site said, with toys, furniture and clothing scattered across the rubble.
The White Helmets on Tuesday posted a video tribute to the four "beautiful little souls" on July 26, naming them as Ekhlas, Jana, Yousra and Mohammad.
Elkhas, the oldest of the four, was given the nickname "butterfly" by her teacher, and had hoped to one day become a doctor.
They were "just children", the White Helmets said in the video, which shows portraits of the four siblings in life.
"These are the so-called 'terrorists' that Russia claims to be targeting in Syria," it added. "How many more innocent lives will be taken?"
Russia, which did not comment immediately on the raid, is a main backer of the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Russia and Syrian regime forces on Tuesday continued their bombardment in southern Idlib, attacking the outskirts of the villages of Kansafra, Alfatirah, Benin, Kadora and Dersanbel, the White Helmets said.
On Wednesday, Russian warplanes were seen flying over the Manbij area in eastern Aleppo province, the Observatory said.
In an investigative report published last week, the Syria Justice and Accountability Centre revealed that the Syrian regime and Russia are responsible for 58 "double-tap air strikes" on civilian and humanitarian targets.
A "double-tap strike" is the practice of striking a location, then striking the same location soon after to target civilians and first responders who arrive at the scene between the strikes, the Syrian-led rights organisation said.
This is a common tactic employed by Syrian regime and Russian forces to maximise harm, it said, describing this practice as "a regularly implemented military strategy".