Syrian government forces advanced yesterday towards the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province, taking advantage of gains made with Russian support since a ceasefire broke down this month, sources said. In the meantime, at least 60 people were killed in clashes between government forces
Syrian government forces advanced yesterday towards the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province, taking advantage of gains made with Russian support since a ceasefire broke down this month, sources said. Meanwhile, at least 60 people were killed in clashes between government forces and factions in northwestern Syria, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
In detail, the Syrian army advanced yesterday towards the city of Khan Sheikhoun, the largest town in the southern countryside of Idlib, where it is engaged in fierce battles against armed factions, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The Syrian army, backed by Russian air support, has been intensifying its combat operations in the southern countryside of Idlib for nearly a week, after most clashes since the escalation began in the area at the end of April, confined to the northern countryside of Hama, adjacent to Idlib.
The director of the observatory, Rami Abdul Rahman, that «government forces are now four kilometers from the city of Khan Sheikhoun from the west, after taking control of five small villages», adding that «no longer separated from the city only agricultural land».
On the east side, fierce battles are taking place between Syrian Army forces and HTS fighters and factions, where the army is trying to control a strategic hill, about six kilometers from Khan Sheikhoun.
Abdulrahman said that the city «has become practically between the jaws pliers, on both sides of the East and West».
A strategic highway passes through the city, and Damascus wants to complete its control over part of it that runs through Idlib and forms a vital artery linking the most prominent cities under the control of its forces. Areas of clashes and nearby areas have seen extensive displacement.
According to the official Syrian News Agency (SANA) that «units of the army continue its operations against the militants of Jabhat al-Nusra, and groups affiliated in the northern countryside of Hama and southern Idlib». It quoted a military source as saying the army had taken control of several villages in the area.
Since the Syrian forces began their escalation on Idlib and its environs, Khan Sheikhoun has been subjected to intensive Syrian and Russian raids, which have not excluded residential neighborhoods and service facilities, and have driven most of their residents to flee, until they are almost empty.
HTS (Jabhat al-Nusra) previously controls most of Idlib and parts of neighboring provinces. There are also armed factions and less influential opposition groups.
Idlib province and its environs have been covered by a Russian-Turkish agreement since September 2018, which provided for the establishment of a demilitarized zone separating areas controlled by the Syrian army from the factions.
It also requires the withdrawal of the opposition factions of heavy and medium weapons, and the withdrawal of combat groups from the area concerned, but it has not been completed.
The agreement was relatively calm, before Damascus began to escalate since the end of April and Russia joined later, causing the deaths of about 820 civilians according to the Observatory, and pushed more than 400 thousand people to the displacement, according to the United Nations.
Earlier this month, Damascus agreed to a four-day ceasefire before it decided to resume its military operations, accusing the factions of violating the agreement and targeting the Hmimim air base, which is based in Russia for its troops in the coastal province of Latakia.
Meanwhile, at least 60 people were killed yesterday in clashes between Syrian forces, factions and fighters in northwestern Syria, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. On Tuesday morning, heavy fighting erupted in the southern countryside of Idlib, according to the Observatory, killing 20 members of the fighting factions, most of them from HTS, while 23 members of the Syrian forces were killed.
In the northern countryside of Latakia, adjacent to Idlib, fighting between the two sides in an area in the mountain of the Kurds killed 10 fighters of the factions, in exchange for six elements of the Syrian forces and armed loyalists, according to the observatory.
The fighting coincides with heavy raids and shelling in the southern countryside of Idlib, Lattakia and Hama. Russian raids on Tuesday killed six civilians, including three in Khan Sheikhoun and three in the village of Salhieh south of Idlib, according to the observatory.