GENEVA - The cease-fire in Syria's Idlib apparently broke down before it even began.
High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet's spokesman, Jeremy Laurence, told VOA that immediately following the supposed cease-fire declared nearly a week ago, ground-based strikes were being lobbed by both the Syrian government and rebel forces.
Soon after, he said, Syria and its Russian allies resumed airstrikes, increasing the threat to civilians.
"We have serious concerns about the cease-fire," Laurence said. "The fact that fighting continues, and attacks continue. We do not know the exact terms of the cease-fire agreements. They are certainly vague. But suffice it to say people are still being killed, many people on both sides of the divide."
The U.N. human rights office reports at least 40 civilians, including women and children, have been killed and scores of others wounded in the last few days. The U.N. high commissioner is calling for an immediate halt to hostilities in and around the "de-escalation" zone of Idlib and for the protection of all civilians and civilian infrastructure.
"It is deeply distressing that civilians are being killed on a daily basis in missile strikes from both the air and the ground," Laurence said. "Women, men and children simply carrying out everyday activities at the workplace, in markets and at schools are being killed and maimed in senseless violence."
On April 29, Syria launched a military offensive to retake Idlib, the last remaining rebel stronghold in Syria. Since then, the U.N. has verified more than 1,500 civilian deaths, nearly half women and children.
An estimated three million civilians are trapped in Idlib. Neighboring countries have closed their borders, shutting off all escape routes. U.N. officials say hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the violence are forced to flee across conflict zones, where some are likely to be killed.