Airstrike on market in northwest Syria kills several

Airstrikes on a popular market and residential neighbourhoods killed at least 20 people and wounded dozens on Monday in attacks on one of the main opposition-held cities in northwestern Syria, rescuers and residents said.

The market raid reportedly carried out by Syrian or Russian jets, targeted the town of Maaret al-Numan in southern Idlib province controlled by opposition fighters Aljazeera said.

Activists said black smoke billowed over the city centre and citizens were on the street crying for help.

“Bodies are lying on the streets. May God take revenge on [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad] for their crimes,” Abdul Rahman al-Yasser, a rescuer from Idlib’s civil defence team, told Reuters news agency. He was searching for bodies under the rubble.

Shortly after the market attack, Syrian state media said rebels shelled the government-held village of Jourin in northern Hama province, killing seven civilians.

The region has witnessed intensive airstrikes and bombardment on a daily basis as Syrian troops, backed by Russian air cover, try to push their way into the enclave near the Turkish border.

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Idlib province is the last major rebel stronghold in the country outside the control of Assad forces.

Since the Syrian military launched its Idlib offensive in late April, more than 2,000 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced.

Reporting from Beirut, Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr said crowded markets have been targeted during the campaign.

“Almost 700 people have been killed in recent weeks. This is kilometres away from the frontline but this is what the Syrian government has been doing,” Khodr said.

“They target civilian neighbourhoods, civilian infrastructure, in order to force the rebels to surrender. But the rebels are not surrendering. In fact, what they are doing is putting up a fight and holding ground.”

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which monitors the fighting on the ground in Syria through a network of activists, said the number of casualties from Monday’s air raid was likely to rise because of the large number of wounded.

Russia denied it was responsible for the airstrike calling the reports “fake”.

“The Russian air force was not carrying out any missions in this part of Syria,” said a defence ministry statement.

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