Airstrike on rebel-held parts of Syria kill and wound dozens

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TOPSHOT – Syrian civil defence volunteers, known as the White Helmets, try to extinguish fire reportedly caused by air strikes in the northwestern city of Idlib on March 24, 2017.
At least 16 people were killed overnight in air strikes on a prison in the rebel-held city of Idlib in northwest Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said in a report on March 25, 2017, adding that the dead included prisoners and prison guards without specifying an immediate breakdown of the toll. Photo by Omar Haj Kadour/AFP/Getty Images

BEIRUT — Warplanes struck rebel-held parts of Syria Saturday killing and wounding scores of people amid clashes on multiple fronts between government forces and insurgent groups in some of the worst violence to hit the country in weeks, opposition activists said Saturday.

The airstrikes, of which some activists said included Russian air raids, concentrated on the rebel-held northwestern province of Idlib, the central province of Hama and suburbs of the capital Damascus that have come under attack by insurgent groups over the past week.

One of the airstrikes hit a main street in the Damascus suburb of Hamouriyeh killing at least 16 people and wounded more than 50, activists said. The airstrikes caused wide destruction in the area.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the airstrikes killed 16, including eight women and children, and wounded more than 50. The Local Coordination said 18 were killed and dozens were wounded.

Both groups said some people are still missing, and that the death toll could rise.

“They have been hitting Hamouriyeh for days but today they struck an area packed with civilians,” said Awis al-Shami of The Civil Defense search-and-rescue group, also known as the White Helmets, via text message.

The airstrikes come as insurgent groups have been on the offensive in Damascus and the central province of Hama for the past days. Government forces and their allies launched a counteroffensive capturing some of the areas they lost in Damascus and Hama.

Opposition activists also reported airstrikes in Idlib province hitting several towns and villages as well as the provincial capital the carries the same name.

The Observatory said a Friday night attack struck a prison run by militants, killing at least 16 people including prisoners and prison staff in Idlib city. It added that women were among the dead as well.

The monitoring group, which has a network of activists around the country, said some people were killed by gunfire as prison guards chased detainees who tried to flee after the attack.

The Local Coordination Committees said five air raids struck the city without giving further details.

Idlib is a stronghold of Syrian insurgent groups and is regularly targeted by Syrian and Russian warplanes.

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