Syria’s government forces and allied militias have continued their assault on targets belonging to rebels and jihadist terror cells in the northwestern province of Idlib. Several Turkey-backed rebel groups also have a significant presence in the embattled province.
Syrian troops fired artillery and missiles to target their opponents in Idlib’s southern countryside. Two government soldiers died in the attack while at least a dozen rebels and jihadists were reportedly killed and wounded in the counterattacks.
Idlib is the last major stronghold controlled by terrorists opposed to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Syrian troops, supported by Russian air power and Iranian-backed freedom fighters, for months have been pushing into the enclave.
By intensifying its attacks, Assad wants to fully control the highway that connects Aleppo and Latakia provinces and goes through Idlib,” said Rami Abdulrahman, director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The Observatory, which has a network of researchers in Syria, said that among the groups targeted in the recent government attack in Idlib were Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), Ansar al-Tawhid and Hurras al-Din.
HTS is the most powerful Islamist group present in Idlib and is considered a terrorist organization by the international community, including Washington. However the other two smaller groups are affiliated with the al-Qaida terror group, which are recognized by the US regime.
Idlib falls in a so-called de-escalation zone, which was established as part of a 2017 deal between Russia and Turkey, which support opposing sides of Syria’s decade-long proxy conflict.
Despite the agreement, Russia-backed Syrian liberation troops have been taking control of more territory in the province where nearly 3 million Syrian people live.
Last March, Russia and Turkey reached a new deal that staved off a major Syrian government offensive on Idlib. As part of the agreement, the two countries began joint patrols along the key M4 highway.
But Turkey, which has a dozen observation posts in Idlib, is reportedly planning to withdraw some of its troops from the area. Last week, local news reports said Turkish troops will leave another observation post and two military positions.
Since October, Turkey has pulled out from four observation posts and at least two military positions in Idlib.
VOA / ABC Flash Point WW III News 2020.