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Russian air strikes 'kill nine civilians in northwestern Syria'

UK-based activist group says others seriously wounded in Idlib, one of the last remaining rebel strongholds in Syria
Rescuers carrying the body of a person reported to have been killed by Russian air strikes in Syria on Sunday (AFP)

Russian air strikes killed at least nine civilians on Sunday in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, according to a UK-based activist group.

Five civilians were killed in the village of al-Malaja in southern Idlib, while four others were killed in the town of Saraqeb in the east, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. 

The air strikes also left a number of people wounded, some seriously, the organisation's head Rami Abdel Rahman told the AFP news agency.

The Idlib region, home to around three million people, including many displaced by Syria's eight-year civil war, is controlled by the country's former al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). 

HTS also controls parts of neighbouring Aleppo and Latakia provinces. It is opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is a Russian ally.

Deadly escalation

Southern Idlib has seen a deadly escalation in air strikes and artillery fire since the beginning of November, according to residents and activists, as government and Russian forces barrel down on one of the country’s last remaining rebel strongholds.

Women, children pay the price as Idlib hospital bombed out of service
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Residents told Middle East Eye last week that the bombing was hitting their homes, hospitals and other civilian infrastructure.

A ceasefire announced by Russia had largely held since late August.

But the Observatory says 48 civilians, including 16 children, have been killed in Russian air strikes on the region since the start of November.

Last month, Assad said Idlib was standing in the way of an end to the civil war that has ravaged Syria.

The conflict has killed at least 370,000 people and displaced millions since beginning in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-Assad protests.