Attack comes as Brussels pushes for Assad to agree to a UN-sanctioned political settlement

Russia, in its first major assault for months, sent in aircraft to attack the Syrian rebel-held town of Idlib as foreign ministers gathered in Brussels to pledge as much as a further $5bn (£3.8bn) to cover the humanitarian cost of refugees.

The Syrian army attack, backed by the Russian warplanes, was seen as the most extensive bombardment on the north-western province of Idlib, the last rebel-held enclave in the eight-year civil war. A full-scale assault could see the 4 million refugees outside Syria swell by hundreds of thousands.

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