Erdogan calls on Putin to end northern Syria attacks by regime forces

14 January, 2018, 00:35 | Author: Genevieve Gibbs
  • Fighters from a coalition of Islamist forces stand on a portrait of Syrian President Bashar al Assad in Idlib

By the end of last week, they had advanced into Idlib, close to an insurgent-held military airport.

The activist group reported that the Syrian army has now taken control of 120 villages in the Idlib province since the onset of their offensive on December 25, 2017.

Recapturing the Abu Zuhour air base, which the rebels took in 2015, has been one of the main targets of a major government offensive into Idlib that began in late October.

Syrian state media, citing a foreign ministry source, said on Thursday that regime forces were fighting to "liberate from the terrorism of the Nusra Front and the other terrorist organisations that belong to it".

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The regime's goal is to retake the southeast of Idlib province in order to secure a route between Damascus and second city Aleppo, both under its control, according to the Observatory.

The activists said the warplane belonged to the Syrian army.

Rebels launched a counter attack on Thursday.

Idlib province is nearly entirely controlled by a jihadi outfit known as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) consisting mostly of fighters from a former al-Qaida affiliate.

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Activists said the Syrian government forces' offensive and advance in Idlib has united the rebel factions to confront it, which could undermine the armed insurgency in Syria as Idlib is the major gathering point and rebel bastion in Syria, following the defeat of the Islamic State (IS) late past year.

The Turkish government said the Idlib offensive was endangering the effort to reach a resolution of the conflict and accused the Syrian government of using the pretext of fighting militants to wage a widescale attack.

Almost 100,000 people have been displaced since early December by fighting in northwestern Syria, where the regime is waging an offensive against jihadis, the United Nations said on Wednesday.

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