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Russian, Syrian air strikes kill at least 20 civilians in northwest Syria: Monitor

The attacks hit five villages in the rebel-held Idlib region
Residents check the damage following reported air and helicopter raids by Russian and Syrian government forces in the town of al-Bara in Syria's Idlib province on 7 December 2019 (AFP)

Syrian government and Russian air strikes killed at least 20 civilians, including eight children, on Saturday in the last major opposition bastion in northwestern Syria, a Britain-based monitor said.

The air raids that hit five villages in the northwest region of Idlib also wounded several others, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Air strikes by Russia, a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, killed at least nine people in an attack that hit a market in the village of Balyoun and another four people in a strike on the village of al-Bara, the Observatory said.

Five more people were killed in a barrel bomb attack by Syrian government helicopters on the village of Abdita, the Observatory said. Barrel bombs killed two more people in the villages of Jebghas and Tel Minis, it added.

The Observatory said eight children were among the dead.

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The monitor, which relies on sources inside Syria, says it determines the provenance of an air strike by looking at flight patterns and the aircraft and munitions involved.

Saturday's air strikes come less than a week after a bombing by Russian and Syrian government forces killed at least 15 civilians in two busy markets in Idlib.

The Idlib region, which is home to some three million people including many displaced by Syria's civil war, is controlled by the country's former al-Qaeda affiliate.

Damascus has repeatedly said it will eventually take back control of Idlib.

Assad's forces launched a blistering military campaign against the region in April, killing around 1,000 civilians and displacing more than 400,000 people from their homes.

A ceasefire was announced by Moscow in late August, although the Observatory says deadly bombardment and skirmishes have persisted.

More than 200 civilians have been killed in the region since, it says.

Syria's war has killed over 370,000 people and displaced millions from their homes since Assad brutally repressed protests against his rule in 2011.