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Russian Jets Hit Civilian Areas Near Turkish Border, Witnesses and Rebels Say

A view shows the damage at a hospital in a rebel-held town of Atareb in northwestern Syria, March 21, 2021.

Russian jets hit rebel training camps Sunday in northwestern Syria near the Turkish border, as Syrian artillery killed seven civilians and injured 14 medics in an attack on a hospital in the area, witnesses and rebel sources said.

The sources said a Russian surface-to-surface missile also hit the town of Qah while Russian air strikes came close to densely populated refugee camps along the border with Turkey.

Russian airstrikes in western Syria
Russian airstrikes in western Syria

A gas facility was hit near Sarmada city in Idlib province, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

The spokesman for the National Army, a Turkish-backed rebel alliance in the northwest, said Russia, which supports the government in Damascus, sought to destabilize the last rebel stronghold in Syria, but the strikes did not signal an imminent major assault against Idlib.

"The Russian aerial strikes are continuing. Ballistic missiles have also hit areas close to civilian centers," Major Youssef Hamoud told Reuters. "They seek to sow chaos and confusion," he added.

Turkey's Defense Ministry said a missile launched by Syrian government forces had struck Qah and a truck and trailer park near Sarmada, injuring seven civilians.

It said a statement had been sent to Russia asking for the attacks to stop immediately and Turkish troops had been alerted.

There was no immediate comment from Moscow.

A woman and a child were among the seven civilians killed when mortar rounds hit the hospital in the city of Atareb.

The Turkish Defense Ministry said earlier that five people were killed and 10 injured in an artillery attack by Damascus-backed forces on the hospital, which is in an area of northwest Syria where Turkey has a military presence.

Fighting between Syrian army forces and rebels has subsided since a deal a year ago ended a Russian-led bombing campaign that had displaced more than 1 million people in the region that borders Turkey. Before that months of fighting had killed several thousand civilians.

Residents say although there have been no major hostilities, the calm is occasionally ruptured by Russian strikes on rebel outposts and by Iranian and Syrian-backed militias shelling towns and cities in the enclave where nearly 4 million civilians live.

Syria and Russia say they only target militant Islamists and deny any indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas.