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Syrian Jets Attack IS-Held City of Palmyra

FILE - This file photo released May 17, 2015, by the Syrian official news agency SANA shows the general view of the ancient Roman city of Palmyra, northeast of Damascus, Syria.

Syrian fighter jets carried out a wave of airstrikes Friday on Islamic State-controlled Palmyra, in some of the strongest attacks on the ancient city since it was captured by the jihadist group in May.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Syrian warplanes hit Palmyra with at least 25 airstrikes, a day after Syrian jets carried out heavy air raids on the northern city of Raqqa, also held by IS militants.

Activists said at least nine people were killed in the raids on Palmyra, including civilians and IS fighters.

IS militants have destroyed ancient tower tombs and Roman-era temples in Palmyra since capturing the World Heritage Site from Syrian government control in May. The militants claim ancient relics and sites of worship promote idolatry. They also have blown up several ancient treasures in Iraq.

Meanwhile, a coalition of rebel groups called the Army of Conquest launched a major ground offensive on two mainly Shi'ite villages in the northern province of Idlib, firing rockets and detonating booby-trapped vehicles outside Fuaa and Kafraya.

Both villages are held by pro-government forces in the rebel-controlled province.

An official with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told the French news agency AFP that the blasts targeted positions held by the National Defense Forces, a local militia loyal to the Syrian regime. The official said the regime carried out air raids targeting the Army of Conquest's positions around the villages.