Residents walk by a building which was damaged by government airstrike in Aleppo, Syria, on Sept. 12, 2012. Russian airstrikes against rebel-held areas in northwestern Syria's Latakia province killed up to 45 people and injured dozens more on Monday, according to activists. File photo by Ahmad Deeb/UPI | License Photo
LATAKIA, Syria, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- Russian airstrikes in northwestern Syria on Monday killed at least 45 people in a rebel-held area of northern Latakia province, activists say.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Tuesday reported up to 120 people, including rebel fighters, and women and children, were killed or injured in the strikes, which hit Jabal al-Akrad, a mountainous area the northern countryside of the province.
An opposition activist group known as the Local Coordination Committees reported up to 57 people were killed in Latakia province Monday, most by Russian airstrikes.
SOHR says the death toll is expected to rise due to people being trapped under rubble.
The Russian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said over the previous 24 hours it conducted 55 combat sorties against 60 targets in the Hama, Idlib, Damascus, Aleppo, Deir ez-Zor and Latakia provinces.
The BBC quoted Russian officials as saying they engaged Islamic State positions, but activist groups say the jihadist group has little to no presence in the coastal province of Latakia, which is the heartland of the ruling Alawite sect and a stronghold of forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The strikes, which reportedly killed Free Syrian Army commander Basil Zimmo, are considered the deadliest conducted by Russian warplanes since Moscow began providing air support to the Assad government on Sept. 30.
SOHR said, at least 370 people have been killed in Russian airstrikes since then, including 243 militants with IS and al-Qaida's Syrian affiliate, the Nusra Front, as well as other rebel factions. The figure also comprises 127 civilians, including 36 children and 34 women.
Russia insists it is attacking terrorist groups such as IS and Nusra Front, but activists and Western leaders accuse Moscow of attacking mainly moderate factions in an effort to prop up Assad, its regional ally.
The Syrian military, backed by Russian air power, Lebanese Hezbollah fighters, Iranian troops and Iraqi Shiite militias, has since early last week advanced against rebel forces across the country in an effort to regain territories lost earlier in the year.
At least 250,000 people have been killed in Syria's civil war, now in its fourth year.