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Fatal air strike in Syria ahead of Moscow summit between Erdogan and Putin

Fighting in Idlib – Syria’s last remaining rebel stronghold – has killed hundreds and displaced nearly a million people.

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Rubble of a destroyed house hit by Syrian government and Russian air strikes (Syrian Civil Defence White Helmets via AP)

Rubble of a destroyed house hit by Syrian government and Russian air strikes (Syrian Civil Defence White Helmets via AP)

Rubble of a destroyed house hit by Syrian government and Russian air strikes (Syrian Civil Defence White Helmets via AP)

An air strike on a rebel-held village in Syria has killed at least 15 people including children and injured several others, opposition activists said.

The activists blamed Russian warplanes for the strike on Maaret Musreen village, which is home to thousands of displaced people.

The strike came hours ahead of a meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the escalation in Syria’s Idlib province, which comes amid a months-long Russian-backed Syrian government offensive there.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, left, and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, left, and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (AP/Lefteris Pitarakis, File)

The fighting in Idlib – Syria’s last remaining rebel stronghold – has killed hundreds and displaced nearly a million people, many of whom have fled north towards the border with Turkey.

Turkey and Russia are the two main power brokers in Syria and each supports rival sides in the nine-year conflict.

Violence has worsened in Idlib in recent weeks, with Turkey sending thousands of troops into the area to support Syrian insurgents holed up there. But Mr Erdogan has not been able to stop Syrian President Bashar Assad’s offensive, which began in early December.

Syrian and Turkish troops have engaged in deadly battles, leaving at least 58 Turkish soldiers dead since the beginning of February as well as scores of Syrian soldiers.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the air strike hit a poultry farm used as a settlement for internally displaced Syrians, killing 15 people including women and children. It said 18 others were injured.

The opposition’s Syrian Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets, also blamed Russian warplanes for the strike. They said 14 people were killed, including five women and two children.

Photos of the strike posted by the Civil Defence showed paramedics using a bulldozer to remove a ceiling that had apparently collapsed over people. The group said it had finished recovering bodies from under the rubble by Thursday morning.

Step news agency, an activist collective, said 16 people were killed including five children and also said that 18 people were hurt.

Such discrepancies on casualty figures are not uncommon in the immediate aftermath of attacks in Syria.

PA