Syrian government forces, backed by Russian warplanes, launched a multi-pronged assault Wednesday on rebel positions north and north-west of the central city of Hama, a monitoring group said.

The Syrian troops pushed north toward rebel-held towns and villages, including Khan Sheikhoun and Latamina – both of which have been hit in Russian airstrikes, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The fighting was the fiercest seen in the area for months and was accompanied by intense Russian air raids, the Britain-based Observatory said.

“All Russian airstrikes and firepower have not helped the [Syrian] regime to advance on the ground except in Latamina,” the Observatory’s head, Rami Abdel-Rahman, said.

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