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Smoke billows following air strikes and shelling on the countryside of Maaret Misrin town, in Syria's northwestern Idlib province, on Aug. 18, 2020.

ABDULAZIZ KETAZ/AFP/Getty Images

Jets believed to be Russian bombed several towns in rebel-held northwestern Syria in a new flare-up of violence since a Turkish-Russian deal that halted major fighting nearly six months ago, witnesses said.

Also on Tuesday, the RIA news agency cited the defence ministry as saying a Russian major-general died and three other servicemen were injured after a bomb exploded in the path of a Russian military convoy near Deir al Zor.

War planes flying at high altitude, which tracking centres said were Russian Sukhoi jets, dropped bombs on the Harbanoush and Sheikh Bahr Nahr areas where makeshift camps house tens of thousands of displaced families.

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“There were over 20 raids we have monitored by Russian jets stationed in Hmeimim air base,” said Abdullah Sawan, a volunteer plane spotter whose network covers the Russian air base in the western coastal province of Latakia.

Russian jets this month bombed mountainous areas in Latakia where rebel fighters are dug in and civil defence witnesses said jets struck a camp for displaced people near the town of Binish in Idlib province that killed at least three civilians.

Russian jets in June made the first air strikes since the deal brokered in March between Russia, which backs Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s forces, and Turkey, which supports opposition fighters.

Rebels say the Syrian army and its allied militias were amassing troops on front lines.

There was no immediate comment from Moscow nor the Syrian army who accuse militant groups of wrecking the deal and deny any indiscriminate attacks on civilians.

Russia said last week the joint military patrols in Idlib, carried out along the M4 highway linking Syria’s east and west, had been suspended over increasing militant attacks in the area.

The March deal ended a Russian-backed bombing campaign that had displaced over a million people in the region which borders Turkey after months of fighting that killed hundreds.

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Residents also said the jet strikes coincided with heavy artillery shelling by the Syrian army of several villages in Jabal al Zawya in southern Idlib.

Moscow has established a major presence in Syria where its airforce and military bases across the country have allowed Syrian President Bashar al Assad in recent years to defeat rebels who rose up against his authoritarian rule.

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