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Syrian government shelling kills seven in rebel-held northwest-civil defence

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BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syrian government shelling killed at least seven people and wounded many others on Thursday in the last major territory still held by rebels seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, rescue workers in the rebel-held area said.

The deaths occurred in Um Jalal village in southeast Idlib province, the Syrian White Helmets told journalists on the WhatsApp messaging service. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, put the death toll at 10.

Most of the deaths were women and children, said the White Helmets, known officially as the Syrian civil defence.

Syrian state media made no mention of shelling in that area. State news agency SANA said militants had blown up a bridge in the northern Hama area which is adjacent to Idlib.

The northwest is the last big piece of territory held by rebels opposed to Assad, who has recaptured most of the rest of the country since 2015 when Russia joined the Syrian civil war on his government’s behalf. The war is now entering its ninth year, with half of Syria’s population displaced and many hundreds of thousands of people killed.

On Sunday, militants in the northwest fired rockets at the government-held city of Aleppo, killing at least 11 civilians in al-Khalidiya neighbourhood, SANA reported.

The rebel-held northwest is home to millions of people who fled other parts of Syria as they were recaptured by the government. The army called off an offensive on the area last year under a truce deal brokered and monitored by Assad’s ally Russia and Turkey, long a supporter of the rebels.

(Writing by Amina Ismail; Editing by Peter Graff)

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