A barrage of Russian strikes on rebel-held towns in southern Syria killed 22 civilians yesterday, the bloodiest day yet of the government's offensive in the strategic region.
With Moscow's help, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's army has battered the south for more than a week with air strikes, rocket fire and crude barrel bombs.
The bombardment has forced more than 45,000 to flee their homes in search of safety, according to the United Nations, while others huddle in their basements to wait out the raids.
Yesterday, air strikes identified as Russian killed 22 civilians, a monitoring group said, most of them in a single town.
"At least 35 Russian air strikes hit the town of Al-Mseifra," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
"One of them hit a basement where people were taking shelter, killing 17 civilians, including five children," the Britain-based monitor said.
The hospital in Al-Mseifra had been put out of service by Russian strikes on Tuesday night.
The Observatory says it determines who carried out particular strikes based on the type of aircraft and munitions used, the locations and the flight patterns.
Another five civilians were killed in other rebel-controlled areas of Daraa.
"This is the highest toll since the escalation began on June 19," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
A doctor in a rural area in the west of Daraa province said his staff was preparing for an influx of critically wounded from Al-Mseifra.
"Because there are no medical services in the eastern countryside and because of the security situation, most of the wounded will be brought to us in the west," said Baha Mahameed, who manages the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (UOSSM)'s operations in the south.