"Idlib's residents knew the attack by their government was coming, just not when."
Syrian security forces launched an assault on the city of Idlib on Saturday, pounding the town with shells from dawn until noon.
Al Jazeera reporter Anita McNaught managed to enter Idlib before government troops launched the attack.
"Shelter is hard to find when mortars take out entire sides of buildings. Syrian army tanks and army personel carriers fire randomly and indiscriminately into the streets," she reports for the network in the video above.
McNaught says she encountered none of the "armed terrorists" blamed for the violence by the Syrian government, but rather local volunteers who possess few powerful weapons and are short on ammunition.
Armed opposition fighters dashed through the streets, taking cover behind the corners of buildings in clashes with the troops. Wounded fighters were pulled into trucks to be sped to clinics for treatment. A group of men used shovels to destroy speed bumps along one street to allow ambulances and other rescue vehicles to drive faster.
Also on Saturday, U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan visited the country, meeting with both the government and opposition. Yet the envoy's visit seemed unable to deter the Syrian regime from continuing its bloody crackdown.
"How cynical that, even as Assad was receiving former (U.N) Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the Syrian Army was conducting a fresh assault on Idlib and continuing its aggression in Hama, Homs, and Rastan," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said of the Assad regime on Monday.
According to the U.N., more than 7,500 people have died in Syria since the start of the violence in March 2011. Activists estimate that more than 8,000 have been killed.