MOSCOW — Russia says it has launched airstrikes targeting militant infrastructure in Syria’s northern Idlib province, where the government is expected to launch a major offensive against the rebels' last major stronghold.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Wednesday that four jets struck targets linked to an al-Qaida-linked group, including a weapons depot and a launch pad for drones that Russia says have targeted its military bases in Syria. The Russian military says it has shot down dozens of hostile drones.

Russia first intervened in Syria in 2015, helping to turn the tide of the civil war in favor of President Bashar Assad's forces.

Eight people were reported killed Tuesday in airstrikes on Idlib. The Russian military says it struck militant targets far from residential areas.

This photo released Tuesday, Sept 4, 2018 by the al-Qaida-affiliated Ibaa News Agency, shows smoke rising over buildings that were hit by airstrikes, in al-Sahan village, in the northern province of Idlib, Syria. Arabic reads,
This photo released Tuesday, Sept 4, 2018 by the al-Qaida-affiliated Ibaa News Agency, shows smoke rising over buildings that were hit by airstrikes, in al-Sahan village, in the northern province of Idlib, Syria. Arabic reads, "Air raid by the Russian occupation plane targets al-Sahan village." (Ibaa News Agency via AP)