Violence escalates in northwest Syria, claiming more lives

A Syrian military official says insurgents in the country's northwest are preparing for an attack on government-held areas.

The comments Sunday to state news agency SANA by the unnamed official came as the rebel-held Idlib province and nearby areas are witnessing the worst wave of violence since Russia and Turkey brokered a truce in September.

Syrian opposition activists, including the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Syrian Civil Defense, say Syrian warplanes and artillery have pounded rebel-held areas in Idlib and Hama province.

The Observatory said government shelling has killed at least three people.

Pro-government media said insurgents shelled villages on the opposite side of the front line.

Government troops and insurgents have been reinforcing their positions in recent days.