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A barrage of Russian strikes on rebel-held towns in southern Syria killed at least 25 civilians on Thursday, the bloodiest day yet of the government s latest offensive in the strategic region.

With Russia s help, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad s army has battered the south for more than a week with air strikes, rocket fire, and crude barrel bombs.

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The bombardment has forced more than 45,000 people to flee in search of safety, according to the United Nations, while others huddle in their basements to wait out the raids.

Dozens of air strikes identified as Russian killed 25 civilians on Thursday, mostly in the town of Al-Mseifra, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“This is the highest toll since the escalation began on June 19,” said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman, adding the bombardment was intensifying and also targeting densely populated areas.

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