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Airstrikes in Syria Kill Dozens in Rebel-held Town

Residents carry an injured woman on a stretcher in a site hit by airstrikes in the rebel-controlled area of Maarat al-Numan town in Idlib province, Syria, Jan. 9, 2016.

Monitors said airstrikes on a rebel-held town in northwestern Syria killed dozens of people Saturday, including civilians, fighters and prisoners. But the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights did not say whether the strikes in Idlib province were carried out by Syrian or allied Russian warplanes, which have both bombed the area in recent weeks.

The observatory said at least 39 people were killed in the strikes, which hit a courthouse and an adjoining prison under the control of al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra militants in Maarat al-Numan. Early accounts said dozens more were wounded, and that the targeted facilities included the group's religious court and a jail.

A map of Syria showing the location of Maarat al-Numan.
A map of Syria showing the location of Maarat al-Numan.

Western news reports said the buildings were struck by four missiles and the number of fatalities was likely to rise.

Al-Nusra is one of the most powerful jihadist groups operating in war-torn Syria, saying it seeks to establish an Islamic state in Syrian territory. In the multisided conflict, it is opposed by government forces, rival Islamic State extremists and some U.S.-backed rebel factions.

In a separate development, Reuters quoted sources as saying a deal had been reached under which international relief agencies would begin delivering humanitarian aid Monday to an opposition-held town besieged by pro-government forces. Simultaneous aid deliveries will also take place in two villages blockaded by rebels.

The United Nations said last week that the Bashar al-Assad government had agreed to allow the deliveries after the Britain-based observatory said at least 10 people died in Madaya from lack of food and medicine.

Relief officials said the town of 42,000, which is northwest of Damascus, last received international aid in October.

U.N. humanitarian officials said that in the past year, the Assad government has granted only about 10 percent of the safe-passage requests needed to deliver food and medicines to besieged towns and villages. Relief agency officials said nearly 400,000 people in 15 contested areas of the country remained cut off from lifesaving aid.