Syria forces gain ground in Idlib

Muscat Daily - - WORLD -

Beirut, Le­banon - Syr­ian regime forces inched closer to cap­tur­ing a key mil­i­tant-held city in north­west Syria fol­low­ing pitched bat­tles with ter­ror­ists and rebels that killed 23 fight­ers, a war mon­i­tor said.

The Bri­tain-based Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights said Da­m­as­cus loy­al­ists seized the vil­lages of Deir Sharqi and Deir Gharbi in south­ern Idlib prov­ince, and were four kilo­me­tres from Maaret al-Nu­man.

The city is one of the largest ur­ban cen­tres in Syria’s last ma­jor op­po­si­tion bas­tion and a key tar­get of the regime, the mon­i­tor said.

“Deir Sharqi and Deir Gharbi are the keys to cap­tur­ing Maaret al-Nu­man,” the Ob­ser­va­tory said.

Bat­tles that led to the cap­ture of the two vil­lages, lo­cated south of Maaret al-Nu­man, killed seven pro-regime forces and 16 fight­ers from rebel and ter­ror­ist groups, the mon­i­tor said.

Ob­ser­va­tory head Rami Ab­dul Rah­man said that regime forces could now use high hill­tops in the two vil­lages as launch­ing pads for mor­tar at­tacks on Maaret alNu­man.

Regime forces, backed by Rus­sian war­planes, have in­creased their at­tacks on south­ern Idlib since De­cem­ber, dis­plac­ing more than 358,000 peo­ple, ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions.

The es­ca­la­tion co­in­cides with a re­cent spike in regime at­tacks on the rebel-held west of Aleppo prov­ince, which neigh­bours Idlib.

Be­tween 15 and 19 Jan­uary, more than 38,000 peo­ple fled vi­o­lence in west­ern Aleppo, ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions.

Idlib and parts of Aleppo are dom­i­nated by the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham al­liance, led by Syria’s former Al Qaeda af­fil­i­ate.

The Idlib re­gion is home to some three mil­lion peo­ple, nearly half of whom have been dis­placed from other parts of the coun­try.

A cease­fire an­nounced by regime ally Moscow ear­lier this month was sup­posed to pro­tect Idlib from fur­ther at­tacks, but the truce never took hold.

(AFP)

The rub­ble of a build­ing fol­low­ing a regime airstrike on Ariha town in Syria’s Idlib on Jan­uary 15

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