Syria Shells Northern Rebel-Held Region of Idlib, Killing 7 People

BEIRUT (AP) -- Syrian and Russian bombardment of rebel-held parts of northwest Syria claimed seven more lives and wounded others Saturday, two days after one of the country's deadliest attacks on a government target in years, a war monitor and a paramedic group said.

Thursday's drone strike on the Homs Military Academy killed 89 people, including 31 women and five children, and wounded as many as 277, according to the health ministry.

The Syrian military accused insurgents "backed by known international forces" of carrying out the attack and said "it will respond with full force and decisiveness to these terrorist organizations, wherever they exist." No one claimed responsibility for the attack that happened during a graduation ceremony at the academy.

On Saturday, Syrian artillery pounded towns and villages held by rebels in Idlib province, killing seven and wounding 10, according to the opposition's Syrian Civil Defense, also known as White Helmets.

After more than 12 years of civil war, Idlib is the last major rebel stronghold in Syria.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, had a similar death toll and reported that insurgents fired rockets on government-held areas, including the outskirts of President Bashar Assad's hometown of Qardaha. The Observatory said Russian warplanes carried out four airstrikes on the rebel-held region.

The pro-government Sham FM reported that three people were wounded in rebel shelling in Latakia province that borders Idlib.

Since the attack in Homs, government forces and their Russian backers have intensified their attacks on Idlib.

Fearing harsh retaliation from the government, authorities in Idlib suspended this week's Friday prayers and also closed public and private schools on Saturday and Sunday.

Syria's crisis started with peaceful protests against Assad's government in March 2011 but quickly morphed into a full-blown civil war after the government's brutal crackdown on the protesters. The conflict has killed half a million people.