UN-linked aid groups have suspended activities in parts of violence-plagued northwest Syria.

Stepped up bombardment by the regime and Russia is said to be jeopardising the safety of humanitarian workers.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says 16 of the organisation’s partners halted operations on Wednesday. The World Food Programme (WFP) suspended deliveries to about 47 000 people in towns and villages that are being bombarded.

Since late April, government forces have mounted  attacks of southern Idlib and neighbouring areas with Russian support. The uptick in air strikes and shelling on the region dominated by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate has displaced 180 000 people between 29 April and 9 May, OCHA says. It has also affected 15 health facilities and 16 schools.

“Some organisations suspended activities as their premises were damaged, destroyed or rendered unsafe by the violence. Others have suspended activities in order to keep their staff and beneficiaries safe, or because the beneficiary population has left.”

According to OCHA – five humanitarian workers, including two health professionals, have been reportedly killed due to air strikes and shelling. WFP has also said that some of its partners inside Idlib have been displaced due to the violence, while a few others have sustained injuries.

The northwestern part of Syria, controlled by jihadists, is made up of a large part of Idlib province as well as adjacent parts of the Aleppo and Hama provinces. It has been protected from a massive regime offensive by a September deal inked by Damascus ally Russia and rebel backer Turkey.

The region of some three million people has come under increasing bombardment since Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which is dominated by jihadists from Al-Qaeda’s former Syrian branch, took full control of it in the beginning of the year. Western powers are concerned that the Russia-backed Syrian government will launch a full-scale assault.

On Friday, air strikes and shelling reportedly killed 10 civilians. The civil war in Syria began in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests. More than 370 000 lives have been lost so far and millions other people displaced.