Airstrikes on rebel-held northwest Syria kill 3

Syrian opposition activists say airstrikes on rebel-held areas in the country's northwest killed three people, including two children

BEIRUT -- Airstrikes in rebel-held areas of northwestern Syria killed three people on Monday, including two children, opposition activists said.

In recent weeks, shelling and airstrikes in Idlib province have intensified. The government of Syrian President Bashar Assad appears to be preparing for a ground offensive to fortify the main highway linking the capital, Damascus, with the northern city of Aleppo.

That highway cuts through the strategic town of Maaret al-Numan, which lies about 10 kilometers (6 miles) to the west of the village of Maasaran, where Monday's airstrikes took place.

One woman was killed in Maasaran, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and a citizen-journalist who goes by the name of Izeddine.

Two children from the same family were also killed and at least five people were wounded by warplanes that targeted a grain warehouse next to an internally displaced camp in the town of Binnish, according to the Observatory and another citizen journalist, Assad al-Assad.

The Observatory and the activists said Russian warplanes carried out the strikes. Russia has since 2015 been a main backer of the Syrian government, which has all but won the war militarily with Moscow's help.

Idlib remains the country’s last opposition stronghold, and is dominated by al-Qaida-linked militants.

Syrian troops launched a four-month offensive earlier this year against Idlib, forcing hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee their homes.

A fragile cease-fire halted the advance at the end of August, but in recent weeks it has repeatedly been violated.

The Observatory reported that the Syrian government has been beefing up reinforcements in an apparent preparation for a ground offensive.