At least 27 people were killed when Russian warplanes bombarded a public market in Syria’s north-western province of Idlib, activists and a monitoring group said, amid denial from Moscow.

The market is located in the city of Maaret al-Numaan, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“This the largest massacre to take place since the offensive started in April,” Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the observatory told dpa.

Since late April, the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, supported by Russian air power, have been waging a massive campaign against rebels in the provinces of Hama and Idlib, the last major opposition strongholds in the country.

The offensive has so far killed 2,599 people, including 707 civilians, and displaced more than 300,000 people, according to the observatory.

Russia’s military denied conducting the airstrike on Monday.

Russia’s air force “has not conducted any such mission in this part of the Syrian Arab Republic,” the Russian Defence Ministry said in an emailed statement.

Russia is the main military ally of controversial al-Assad in the Middle Eastern country’s devastating, multi-sided civil war.

Activists and residents near the marketplace said that some 50 shops and a dozen four-floor buildings were destroyed, as planes carried out four consecutive raids on the same area.

“The Russians can deny what they want but we are 100-per-cent sure that the market and the centre of the city was hit by Russian planes … these are purely civilian areas,” Omar al-Soud a resident of Maaret al-Numaan told dpa by phone.

At least 60 people were injured and many are still buried under the rubble, Fareed, another activist, said.

He added that they have only one small hospital in the city, which is why some of the wounded are being transferred outside the city.

Residents said black smoke billowed over the city centre and citizens were on the street crying for help.

“This is a real massacre,” shouted a man as he walked amid the damage inside the market.

Among those killed was a member of the White Helmets rescue team, activists said.

A video was posted on social media showed a veiled woman calling on US president Donald Trump to stop this “massacre against civilians.”

“Mr Trump only you can stop this,” she shouted in English.


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