Russia carried out airstrikes in Syria that killed at least 45 people, including a rebel commander, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday.
Rami Abdurrahman, head of the monitoring group, said the airstrikes were carried out on Monday in the coastal region of Latakia, an area with a strong rebel presence. Abdurrahman said family members of rebel troops were also among those killed, and that the death toll was expected to rise.
The area, which has ties to the family of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has been a frequent target of Russian airstrikes since Moscow entered the war in late September. Both moderate and Islamist fighters are active in the region, which has been one of the regime’s strongholds.
Western governments, including the United States, have been critical of Moscow’s involvement in Syria, claiming Russian President Vladimir Putin is targeting those seeking to topple Assad. Russian officials have denied the claims, insisting Moscow is exclusively targeting the “Islamic State” and other terrorist groups.
Concerns have also been raised about air safety, as the number of countries engaging in combat missions in the skies above Syria grows.
Last week, the Syrian army, backed by Russian airpower, launched a major offensive against various oppositional groups outside of Aleppo.