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Russian warplanes pound Syria's Idlib killing 23 civilians: Monitor

A rights group said Russian bombing in Idlib was the heaviest for months as nearly two dozen civilians are killed
Members of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent carry a victim on a stretcher following Russian air strikes (AFP)

Russian warplanes pounded a rebel held city in north-west Syria before dawn on Tuesday killing 23 civilians in the heaviest strikes in months, a monitoring group said.

Dozens of civilians were also wounded in the raids on Idlib, a provincial capital held by rebel groups since March last year, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

"The air strikes are the most intensive on Idlib since the beginning of the truce," Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

"Even though Idlib is not covered by the truce, it had been relatively calm with only intermittent raids," he added.

The city is held by groups that include al-Qaeda affiliate the Nusra Front, which is not party to a Russian and US brokered ceasefire that went into force on 27 February between Moscow-backed government forces and Washington-backed rebels.

The strikes hit near a hospital and a public garden. Footage posted to social media showed a small child being pulled from the rubble of one bombed building. 

Moscow has been carrying out an air campaign in support of its Damascus ally since September last year.

It has been criticised for targeting rebel groups as well as al-Qaeda and its rival, the Islamic State group.

Russia has called for other rebel groups to withdraw from areas controlled by Nusra and break ranks with the al-Qaeda affiliate. 

More than 280,000 people have been killed in Syria since the civil war erupted in 2011.