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Regime forces are about to take control of the city of Saraqeb in northwestern Syria

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — The regime forces are about to take control of the strategic city of Saraqib in northwestern Syria, as the ongoing battles against the fighting factions have left more than 400 fighters from both sides within a week, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights counted Friday.

Since December, the areas of control of the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham and other less powerful factions in and around Idlib governorate, where three million people, nearly half of whom are displaced, live in a military escalation of the regime forces and its ally Russia.

The regime forces are waging violent battles against the factions, headed by the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham (formerly Al-Nusra Front) on the axes of Saraqib in the southern countryside of Idlib and Al-Rashideen in the neighboring western countryside of Aleppo, according to the observatory.

“Violent clashes are taking place south of the city of Saraqib, of which the regime forces are approximately two kilometers away,” Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the observatory, told AFP.

And the city has become like many towns and villages in its vicinity, almost empty of its residents, who were displaced from it due to the military advances of the regime forces that announced on Wednesday their control of the city of Maarat al-Numan, the second largest city of Idlib.

The escalation is concentrated in the southern countryside of Idlib and western Aleppo, where a section of an international strategic road connecting the city of Aleppo to Damascus, known as “Um Fife”, passes through the most prominent Syrian cities from Hama and Homs to the southern border with Jordan.

In Idlib, this road passes in three major cities, Khan Sheikhoun, which was controlled by the regime forces in the summer of 2019, and Maarat al-Numan, and then the city of Saraqeb in the north.

Fifty kilometers of the international road remains outside the control of Damascus, the majority of which crosses the western countryside of Aleppo.

“The Syrian army is seeking to secure the entire international route,” a Syrian military source told reporters, including an AFP team, on the sidelines of a tour organized by the Ministry of Information in Maarat al-Numan on Thursday.

He explained that after arriving at Saraqib, the army will work to meet its forces “in it by attacking from the Aleppo side” as the battles of the heaviest have been taking place since the end of 2016.

Saraqib’s importance lies in its strategic location, as it forms the meeting point between “Um Fife” road and a second strategic road known as “Um Fawr”, connecting the governorates of Aleppo and Idlib with Latakia in the west.

The bombardment and the battles that have continued for a week have caused the death of more than 400 fighters from both sides, distributed almost equally between the regime forces and the factions, according to the observatory’s count on Friday.

The escalation since December has pushed 388,000 people to flee the area, especially Ma`rat al-Numan, toward safer areas to the north, according to the United Nations. It also caused the deaths of more than 260 civilians, according to the observatory.

As the conflict nears the completion of its ninth year, the regime forces have taken control of more than seventy percent of the area of ​​Syria, and their forces have been deployed in the areas of Kurdish guerrilla control in the northeast of the country. Following its recent progress in and around Idlib, it is close to controlling about half of the Idlib Governorate area, the most prominent area that is still with parts of the neighboring provinces of Aleppo and Latakia outside its control.

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