UNICEF has called air strikes in Syria’s Idlib province killing 22 children and six teachers an “outrage” and labelled it the deadliest attack on a school since the country’s war began nearly six years ago.
The airstrikes in the village of Hass around noon on Wednesday (local time) hit a residential compound housing a school complex as children gathered outside.
UNICEF and the Syrian Civil Defence first responder team said the death toll was likely to rise as rescue efforts continued.
The Civil Defence said there were two schools in the area hit with 11 airstrikes around noon.
UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake called the airstrikes an “outrage”, and added if they were found to be deliberate, the attacks would be considered a war crime.
“This latest atrocity may be the deadliest attack on a school since the war began more than five years ago.”
“When will the world’s revulsion at such barbarity be matched by insistence that this must stop?”
Idlib is the main Syrian opposition stronghold, though radical militant groups also have a large presence there.
It has regularly been hit by Syrian and Russian warplanes as well as the US-led coalition targeting Islamic State militants.
An activist at the scene said as many as 10 airstrikes were believed to have hit the residential area Wednesday.
On Thursday, the White House said that either Russia or the Syrian Government were behind the school strike, but Moscow denied the accusation saying its planes were not in the airspace.
“Even if it was the Assad regime that carried it out, the Assad regime is only in a position to carry out those kind of attacks because they are supported by the Russian Government,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
Before Wednesday’s attack, the deadliest attack on a school was reported in April 2014, when 30 children were killed when airstrikes hit a school in the rebel-held part of Aleppo city, according to UNICEF.