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At least eight dead in Russian air strikes in Syria, war monitor says

F-15 Strike Eagles (Senior Airman Matthew Bruch/U.S. Air Force)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

At least eight people, including five children, have been killed in Russian air strikes on a school sheltering displaced civilians in northwest Syria, a monitoring group said.

The air strikes hit the village of Jubass in the province of Idlib on December 24, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Backed by Russian air strikes, Syrian government forces began a new offensive on the country’s last rebel stronghold last week, setting off a mass exodus of civilians to safer areas near the Turkish border.

Syrian troops are now less than 4 kilometers from a major rebel-held town, Maaret Al-Numan, the AFP news agency reported on December 24, quoting the head of the monitor, Rami Abdel Rahman.

Maaret Al-Numan sits on a key highway linking the capital, Damascus, with the northern city of Aleppo, Syria’s largest. The immediate goal of government forces appeared to be reopening the highway, which has been closed by the rebels since 2012.

Idlib Province is dominated by Al-Qaeda-linked militants and is also home to some 3 million civilians.

The United Nations says more than half of the civilians in Idlib have been internally displaced following continuing reports of air strikes and the escalation of fighting in the area.