BEIRUT: A wave of late night air strikes pummelled the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib, killing at least 23 people, wounding dozens and trapping several under the rubble of their homes, opposition activists said on Tuesday.
At least seven children were among those killed in the strikes, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group that relies on local activists.
The Observatory said Russia carried out the air strikes on the city, which is controlled by several insurgent groups, including a local Al Qaeda affiliate known as the Nusra Front, but Moscow denied any involvement.
“The Russian aviation hasn’t performed any combat tasks, moreover hasn’t conducted any air strikes in the province of Idlib,” the Russian Defence Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said in a statement on Tuesday.
Since the Russian military campaign began last September in an effort to shore up Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces, Moscow has staunchly denied striking any civilian areas.
The Nusra Front has evacuated all its civilian centres, such as religious courts, in the city of Idlib and nearby villages and towns, said an activist based in Idlib province who goes by the name of Ahmad Ariha.
He said the air raids late on Monday killed and wounded some 250 people. A Syria-based reporter for Al-Mayadeen TV, an Arab News channel based in Beirut, said the air strikes targeted a Nusra Front meeting.
A Syrian opposition figure said the air strikes “demolished” three centres for the Army of Conquest, a coalition of several militant factions including Nusra Front and the powerful ultraconservative Ahrar al-Sham group.
The opposition figure said more than half of those killed in Idlib on Monday were fighters. The person spoke on condition of anonymity since revealing the target might anger other opposition groups.