Syria market
Sweet pastries are displayed for sale in Maarat Al-Nouman, in the southern part of Idlib province in SyriaReuters

Russian air strikes on two marketplaces in northern Syria have killed at least 34 civilians. The attacks on 15 December struck a fuel market in Idlib province where 16 people died, while a further 18 civilians were killed when a market in an Islamic State (IS)-controlled village in Aleppo.

The death tolls from both raids are likely to rise as a number of people were severely injured, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said. Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Observatory, said the jets were believed to be Russian and said: "This is part of the campaign against Daesh (IS)."

Hundreds of Daesh tankers used to transport oil from fields held by the terror organisation to other parts of Syria have been destroyed by Russian and US-led coalition warplanes as part of a campaign to weaken the group and choke its revenue. Moscow began its air strikes in Syria on 30 September 2015, but has been accused of hitting non-IS targets, including moderate Western-backed groups.

On 11 December, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the Kremlin had provided support to certain Free Syrian Army (FSA) units, which opposes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Putin said they were boosted with "weapons, ammunition and supplies."

The civil war in Syria has raged on since March 2011, killing more than 250,000 people and displacing millions. Speaking to the Washington Post, a UN official in southern Turkey said that an additional 260,000 people have been displaced by increased fighting since Russia's intervention in the conflict. Aid agencies have voiced fears over a worsening humanitarian situation in Syria's north as Russian strikes incapacitate aid supply routes as hospitals and bakeries continue to be demolished.