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Dozens of airstrikes and shelling hit parts of the last swathe of Syrian territory still held by rebels on Friday. A war monitoring group, rescue workers, and the rebels themselves confirmed the attack in what could be the prelude to a full-scale government offensive. The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights said dozens of strikes from helicopters and war planes has hit parts of Hama, Idlib and Aleppo provinces.
At least 29 people were killed. The Syrian White Helmets, a group of rescue workers established in rebel held areas of the country, said that barrel bombs had also been used. The three areas in northwest Syria are the last major ones still in the hands of fighters seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.
His forces, backed by allies Russia and Iran, recaptured the area around Damascus in the southwest earlier this year.
rian state news agency SANA reported that the Syrian Army carried out Friday's operations against terrorist groups, its term for the rebels in northern Hama countryside. Several rebel headquarter buildings were said to have been destroyed.
The Syrian Observatory said Friday's air strikes were the first to hit the area in almost a month and could be seen as a, quote, preparation for an offensive. On Thursday, the Syrian army dropped leaflets over Idlib province. Urging people to agree to a return of state rule and telling them the seven-year war was nearing its end.
Hundreds of thousands of Assad opponents have relocated to northwest Syria under evacuation agreements, and Assad has indicated that it's his next target. The United Nations worries that such an offensive could force 2.5 million people towards the Turkish border.