More than 70 killed in battles in Idlib

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Around 70 fighters have been killed in the last 24 hours in clashes between Syrian regime forces and jihadist and opposition factions in the northwestern province of Idlib, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Sunday.

The observatory said that the clashes resulted in the killing of 36 members of the regime forces and 33 armed factions.

The director of the Observatory Rami Abdul Rahman told AFP that it “the most violent clashes in the province of Idlib since the entry into force of the ceasefire,” announced by the regime and its Russian ally.

Residents of the affected villages fled to the northern regions, joining hundreds of thousands who have fled the violence-plagued province since it erupted earlier this year.

“I fled to the Turkish-Syrian border for fear of children flying from the shelling of villages and towns in the eastern countryside of Idlib and the high frequency of indiscriminate shelling,” said Hafiz, who fled the area with his wife and three children two days ago.

On Sunday morning, plumes of smoke rose in the skies of Maarat al-Numan, where planes carried out raids on the positions of jihadists and opposition fighters, according to an AFP correspondent.

The Observatory on Sunday put the death toll from the fighting at 69 since the fighting erupted the previous day.

At least 36 Syrian regime soldiers were killed.

– “Ceasefire” –

The observation said an attack led by HTS fighters (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) on several regime positions led to fighting.

“The regime forces launched a counter-attack on four villages in southeastern Idlib, which were captured by the fighting and jihadi factions,” Abdul Rahman said. “I was able to restore these entire villages,” he said.

According to the Observatory and an AFP correspondent that “clashes continue.”

And raids on Sunday afternoon on areas controlled by jihadists, dozens of kilometers from the main front, indicating the possibility of escalating fighting, according to the reporter.

Idlib governorate is dominated by HTS (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) fighters. The majority of this area, as well as adjacent areas in the governorates of Aleppo, Hama and Lattakia, remain outside the control of the regime.

These areas include several jihadist groups, as well as other armed factions but whose influence has been diminished.

The area is one of the last strongholds of insurgents fighting against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which controls more than 70 percent of the country, according to the Observatory.

On October 22, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made his first visit to the region since the start of the 2011 war, and considered the Idlib battle as the basis for resolving the war in Syria.

– Other fighting points –

Between the end of April and the end of August, the area witnessed bombardments carried out by the Syrian army, supported by Russian fighter jets. More than a thousand civilians were killed, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, while about 400 thousand displaced according to the United Nations.

Despite the August 31 truce, fighting and shelling have intensified in recent weeks.

According to the Observatory, more than 160 civilians and more than 460 fighters, including regime forces, have been killed since the truce began.

The conflict in Syria has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions.

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