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Unidentified jets bomb Syrian rebel group Ahrar Al-Sham’s main camp

Earlier, a monitoring group said that Russian warplanes pounded an Al-Qaeda-held city in northwestern Syria before dawn on Tuesday killing 23 civilians

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Unidentified jets bombed a major camp of the powerful Islamist Ahrar al-Sham insurgent group in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib, leaving a large number of dead and wounded, a monitor reported on Tuesday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said top trainers from among Ahrar al-Sham’s leaders were normally at the camp located in the Sheikh Bahar area of rural Idlib.

The insurgent group could not be reached comment. Syrian warplanes over the past 24 hours have intensified raids in the province, which is mainly in the hands of Ahrar al Sham and the Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda offshoot.

Meanwhile, Russia on Tuesday denied its planes had conducted air strikes overnight against the Syrian rebel-held city of Idlib, which the Observatory said had killed 23 people.

“Russian planes did not carry out any combat missions, to say nothing of any air strikes, in the province of Idlib,” Igor Konashenkov, a Russian Defence Ministry spokesman, said in a statement.

Earlier, the Observatory said that Russian warplanes pounded an Al-Qaeda-held city in northwestern Syria before dawn on Tuesday killing 23 civilians in the heaviest strikes in months.

Dozens of civilians were also wounded in the raids on Idlib, a provincial capital held by Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front and its allies since March last year, the Observatory said.

Al-Nusra is not party to a Russian- and US-brokered ceasefire that went into force on February 27 between Moscow-backed government forces and Washington-backed non-extremist rebels.

"The air strikes are the most intensive on Idlib since the beginning of the truce," Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

"Even though Idlib is not covered by the truce, it had been relatively calm with only intermittent raids," he added.

The strikes hit near a hospital and a public garden.

Moscow has been carrying out an air campaign in support of its Damascus ally since September last year.
It has been criticized for targeting non-jihadist rebels as well as Al-Qaeda and its rival ISIS.

Russia has called for other rebel groups to withdraw from areas controlled by Al-Nusra and break ranks with the militants.

More than 280,000 people have been killed in Syria since the civil war erupted in 2011.

(With AFP and Reuters)