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Air strikes on rebel towns in southern Syria killed five civilians and damaged two hospitals on Sunday, a monitor said, in fresh signs of a looming government assault.

Russian-backed regime forces have for weeks been preparing an offensive to retake Syria s south, a strategic zone that borders both Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

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The regime has sent military reinforcements to the area, dropped flyers demanding rebels surrender, and ramped up air strikes in recent days.

Late Saturday, President Bashar al-Assad s Russian allies began bombing the rebel-held south for the first time since summer 2017, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Russian raids continued into Sunday.

“Five civilians including two women were killed on Sunday in Russian strikes on the towns of Al-Herak, Al-Sura, and Alma,” said Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman.

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