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Moscow Denies Russian Warplanes Killed 23 Civilians In Syria Air Strikes

Members of the Syrian Civil Defense body known as the White Helmets pull bodies and wounded people out from under rubble following an air strike on Maaret al-Numan in the Syria's northwestern Idlib Province on July 22.

Russia's Defense Ministry is denying reports that Russian warplanes carried out air strikes that hit a market in the rebel-held Syrian city of Maarat al-Numan, killing at least 23 civilians and wounded dozens more.

Syrian opposition activists and a war monitoring group said either Russian or Syrian military jets conducted air strikes on a market and residential neighborhoods of the city in the southern part of Idlib Province on July 22.

Moscow called the reports "fake."

"Russia's Air Force did not carry out any missions in the given region of the Syrian Arab Republic," the ministry said in a statement following the reports.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said the air strikes killed 23 people, including two children. It said the death toll could rise as dozens more were injured in the strike.

Meanwhile, the Thiqa news agency, an activist collective in northern Syria, said 27 people were killed in the air strikes.

A member of the Syrian Civil Defense, also known as White Helmets, said one of their colleagues was killed in an air strike that hit the market.

The SOHR said earlier that government bombing in Idlib killed at least 11 civilians on July 21.

Russia and Iran, have given Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government crucial military backing in the eight-year war in Syria, which began with a government crackdown against protesters in March 2011.

Russia helped reverse the course of the conflict in Assad's favor when it launched a campaign of air strikes against the Syrian president's opponents and stepped up its military presence on the ground in Syria in 2015.

Based on reporting By AP, AFP, Reuters, TASS, and Interfax