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Syria: 9 pro-regime fighters killed by Turkish bombing in Idlib

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Nine Syrian regime fighters were killed Monday by Turkish bombing in Idlib where Damascus forces are advancing as part of their offensive against this latest jihadist and rebel stronghold in Syria with the support of Russia.

Rebels backed by neighboring Turkey have managed to recover the town of Nayrab, southeast of the city of Idlib, while Turkish artillery killed nine fighters of the regime’s forces in the area, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

A total of 94 fighters were killed on several fronts in the Idlib region on Monday, the Observatory said. Among them are 41 pre-regime as well as 53 jihadist fighters and allied rebels, according to the same source.

Earlier, the Observatory had reported the deaths of five civilians, killed in the area of ​​Jabal al-Zawiya by air strikes by the Russian ally of the regime in the south of Idlib province, where the fighting particularly in the west of the big city of Maaret al-Noomane, said the SOHR.

The progression of the regime takes place south of the strategic M4 highway, which connects the big city of Aleppo to the coastal province of Latakia, two bastions of power of Bashar al-Assad, told AFP the director of the SOHR, Rami Abdel Rahmane.

Ultimately, the goal is to reconquer the sections of this highway that cross Idlib, currently held by jihadists and rebels, according to Mr. Abdel Rahmane.

“Over the past 24 hours, regime forces have advanced and conquered 10 localities and villages” south of the M4, he said.

“Syrian army units continue to advance in southern Idlib,” confirmed the official Sana news agency, reporting the conquest on Sunday and Monday of at least seven villages and localities.

The regime launched its offensive in the northwest in December and nearly 900,000 people have been displaced by the violence, according to the UN, which warned on Monday that the fighting was “dangerously” approaching their camps, risking cause a “bloodbath”.

The jihadists of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS, ex-Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda) still dominate more than half of the province of Idlib and adjoining sectors in those of Aleppo, Hama and Latakia.

The resumption of fighting in Idlib comes as in recent weeks operations have focused on the west of the province of Aleppo.

Government forces have conquered all insurgent areas around the city of Aleppo. They have also taken over in their entirety another highway connecting the country’s second city to Damascus.

To regain the M4 highway, the regime will “launch operations against Ariha and Jisr al-Shughour”, two cities that are on this route, warns Mr. Abdel Rahmane.

Experts believe that the battle of Jisr al-Shughour may prove to be particularly difficult for the regime. The city is dominated by jihadists of the Islamic Party of Turkestan (TIP), whose members belong mainly to the Uighur Muslim minority in China.

Triggered in March 2011 by the suppression of peaceful demonstrations, the war in Syria has killed more than 380,000 people.

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