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Russian army announces ceasefire in Syrian Idlib as of Saturday

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — The Russian army on Friday announced a unilateral ceasefire that the Syrian army would abide by and enter into force early Saturday in the northwestern region of Idlib, which Damascus is seeking to restore.

“A unilateral ceasefire has been reached by the Syrian government forces as of 6:00 am on August 31,” the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria said in a statement.

“The Russian Center for Reconciliation calls on the leaders of the armed groups to stop provocations and join the settlement process in the areas under their control,” the statement said.

After months of heavy bombardment by Russian and Syrian warplanes, President Bashar al-Assad’s regime began a ground offensive on August 8 in the province under the control of the jihadists of HTS (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra).

Syrian regime forces made further progress in Idlib province on Thursday, taking control of several villages and towns, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

A few days ago, it took control of the city of Khan Sheikhoun on the road, and has since been trying to advance further in its surroundings.

HTS and its militant groups control areas in and around Idlib. Less influential opposition factions are also present.

Idlib province and its environs are covered by a Russian-Turkish agreement reached in Sochi in September that provided for the establishment of a demilitarized zone, but its implementation has not been completed.

During their advance in Khan Sheikhoun and the northern countryside of Hama last week, regime forces cordoned off a Turkish observation post in the town of Mork, the largest of the 12 similar points Ankara has deployed in Idlib and its environs under the agreement with Russia.

The nearly four-month escalation has driven more than 400,000 people from the region, while more than 950 civilians have been killed, according to the Observatory.

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