Up to 40 Syrian soldiers have been killed in an assault by hundreds of militants in north-western Syria, according to Russia’s defence ministry.
The ministry, which supports Syria’s government, said there were several attacks in which the militants seized two settlements in Idlib province.
Syrian state media said members of a jihadist alliance had set off car bombs and used heavy fire as they targeted positions in the Maarat al-Numan area.
But they did not mention casualties.
A Syrian military source was cited as saying army units were redeployed to the area and eventually repelled the attacks «with high efficiency».
A spokesman for National Liberation Front rebel alliance, Naji Mustafa, said the assault had taken place earlier this week.
Idlib is the last stronghold of the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad and home to three million people, of whom 76% are women and children.
Meanwhile, rescue workers reported that Russian air strikes killed at least eight civilians across the region on Thursday.
The Syria Civil Defence, whose volunteers are known as the White Helmets, said a women and her two children had died in the village of Arnabah after midnight, and that three children and two adults died when the town of Saraqeb was bombed.
On Tuesday, air strikes by Russian and Syrian government warplanes reportedly killed at least 28 people, including a family of eight in the village of Kfar Taal.
The European Union condemned the repeated air strikes and shelling of targeting civilians on Thursday, saying they were «unacceptable and must cease».
«The EU will keep the sanctions against the Assad regime under review as long as these brutal attacks continue,» it added.