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Scores killed in Russian air strike on city in northern Syria

Air strikes also hit a prison run by al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front
A photo of an air strike hitting the city of Maarrat al-Nu'man (Twitter/@sakirkhader)

Russian strikes Saturday on a prison complex run by Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate killed at least 57 people and wounded 30 others, many critically, a monitor said, giving a revised toll.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the air raids on an Al-Nusra Front building prison near a popular market in northwestern Idlib province killed 21 civilians, 29 militants and seven detainees.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that Russian air strikes also hit a prison complex near the market run by al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate al-Nusra Front.

The building reportedly housed the group's religious court and a jail.

SOHR said the death toll could rise as dozens of people were wounded or trapped under the rubble.

Idlib province has been an opposition stronghold since the spring of 2015, when it fell to the Jaish al-Fatah coalition, a group comprised of Ahrar al-Sham, the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front and others.

Russia began air strikes in October, ostensibly against the Islamic State (IS) group, but has been accused of primarily striking non-IS groups in the country in defence of the government of Bashar al-Assad.

Idlib has also seen long-running sieges against the towns of Zahra and Nubl by rebel forces.

The two towns, which are majority Shia, have been a sticking point in ceasefire negotiations between rebels, the Syrian government and Lebanese Hezbollah militants, particularly with regards to the blockaded towns of Zabadani and Madaya.

On Thursday, the Syrian government announced that it would allow aid into Madaya, as well as a number of other besieged towns.

"The UN welcomes today's approval from the government of Syria to access Madaya, Fuaa and Kafraya and is preparing to deliver humanitarian assistance in the coming days," a UN statement said in response.

It said there were "credible reports of people dying from starvation" in Madaya, including a 53-year-old man who allegedly died on Tuesday.

The war in Syria has so far claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people and left millions displaced abroad and internally.

An influx of refugees from Syria into Europe has also provoked massive domestic debates in European countries about the correct humanitarian response to the crisis.

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