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Strike in northwest Syria kills 20, including 16 children

Children were killed after they fled an earlier air strike on a school in the opposition-held province
Syrians gather in solidarity with the people in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta during a demonstration in Idlib against government bombardments (AFP)

An air raid on a rebel-held area of northwestern Syria killed 20 people including 16 children fleeing an earlier strike on a school, rescue workers said on Wednesday.

The Syrian Civil Defence rescue service, which operates in opposition areas, said the air raid took place in the village of Kafr Batikh in the eastern part of Idlib province on Wednesday.

A war monitor, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, gave the same number of dead and said that 15 were from one family.

The observatory said the strike hit near a checkpoint held by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a militant group that consists largely of ex-members of a former Al-Qaeda affiliate.

It was not clear whether the air strike was carried out by the Syrian government or its Russian ally.

Abdel Rahman said the strike hit children coming out of a nearby school.

Idlib is the largest, most populous area still held by rebels seeking to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose forces are backed in the war by Russian air power.

Assad and his allies are also attacking rebels in Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, in an offensive that has involved intense bombardment. 

Idlib is also likely to see an influx of people after Syrian rebels agreed a deal to evacuate a besieged town in Eastern Ghouta.

Some 1,500 militants and 6,000 of their family members will be transported to rebel-held Idlib province in two batches starting on Thursday, the Hezbollah military media unit said.

Russia's Defence Ministry, which the opposition sources said had brokered the deal, said on Wednesday it had opened a new "humanitarian corridor" near Harasta but did not indicate whether this would be part of any rebel pullout deal.

The Syrian army has recaptured 70 percent of the territory that was under rebel control in Eastern Ghouta, and after weeks of bombardment residents are fleeing by the thousands.

Beside Harasta, the rebels still hold two other pockets in the enclave outside Damascus - the major town of Douma and an area to the south that includes the towns of Jobar, Ein Terma and Arbin.

On Monday an air strike in Arbin in Eastern Ghouta killed 15 children and two women sheltering in the basement of a school, the Observatory said.

The government and Russia describe the rebel groups in Syria as terrorists.

They have accused the Western-funded Civil Defence, sometimes also called the White Helmets, of working with militant groups and fabricating evidence of civilian casualties, which it denies.

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