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Syrian government forces control several towns while advancing in Idlib

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and official Syrian media said on Sunday that government forces have taken control of several towns in the northwestern Idlib governorate, amid a campaign that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has resumed to regain control of the last stronghold of the armed opposition in the country.

Hundreds of thousands have fled Idlib in the past weeks, with intensified air strikes by Syrian and Russian forces aimed at driving out the armed opposition from its last stronghold in the nearly nine-year-old civil war.

The observatory said that six towns in Idlib countryside have been under the control of government forces during the past 24 hours.

The observatory added that the government forces backed by intense Russian air strikes made a proximity to the outskirts of Maarat al-Numan, an urban strategic center, about 33 km south of Idlib, and located on a highway between Damascus and Aleppo.

Government forces continue to advance into the area under the control of the armed opposition despite an agreement between Turkey and Russia, which support two warring factions, to cease fire on January 12.

On Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that about 400,000 people from Idlib province were moving towards the Turkish border as a result of escalating violence.

Turkey has a presence in the area and is seen by many civilians as a protector against Russian strikes. Turkey already hosts more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees and fears that millions of others will cross it.

Moscow and Damascus say they are fighting militants who have intensified their attacks on civilians in Aleppo, northern Syria, but medics and human rights groups say air strikes have targeted civilian areas, including hospitals and schools.

The Syrian Arab News Agency quoted a military source as saying, “The actions of the army will not be reduced to responding to the sources of fire of armed terrorist organizations, but rather will include sweeping field operations that will not stop before the eradication of the remaining armed terrorism in all its names and forms.”

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