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System forces hundreds of meters away from the second largest city of Idlib

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — The regime forces have made new progress in northwestern Syria and are only hundreds of meters away from the strategic city of Maarat al-Numan, the second largest city of Idlib governorate, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday.

Idlib governorate and its adjacent areas, which are home to three million people, about half of whom are displaced, have been witnessing a military escalation of the regime forces and their ally Russia since December, in the southern countryside of Idlib and western Aleppo, where part of the international road linking the city of Aleppo with the capital, Damascus, passes.

The Syrian Observatory reported that during the past 24 hours, the regime forces had controlled seven major towns in the vicinity of the city of Maarat al-Numan, located on this international road.

Thus, according to the observatory, it reached “the outskirts of the city, and it is only hundreds of meters away from it, as well as part of the international road.”

Al-Watan newspaper, which is close to the Syrian government, wrote in its Sunday edition that the army has become “just around the corner from Maarat al-Numan,” which “has become lawful” to enter it and to advance to parts of the international road.

Damascus reiterates its intention to restore the entire Idlib area and its surroundings despite several armistice agreements reached over the past years in the governorate, most of which are under the control of the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) and other less influential opposition factions are active in it.

Parallel to the advance towards Ma`rat al-Numan, regime forces are engaged in violent clashes against the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham and other factions west of the city of Aleppo.

Clashes continue on both fronts, accompanied by Russian and Syrian air strikes, and resulted in dozens of deaths on both sides.

The official Syrian News Agency (SANA) quoted a military source as confirming that the army’s actions in Idlib and western Aleppo “will include sweeping field operations that will not stop before the eradication of the remaining armed terrorism in all its names and forms.”

The escalation since December has pushed about 350,000 people to move from southern Idlib towards safer north regions, according to the United Nations. And the city of Maarat al-Numan is almost empty of the population.

Since the jihadi and warring factions took over the entire province in 2015, regime forces with Russian support have escalated their bombardment of the province or launching ground attacks that are making progress and usually ending with truce agreements sponsored by Russia and Turkey.

During a four-month offensive that ended with a truce at the end of August, regime forces took control of large areas in the countryside’s southern countryside, most notably the town of Khan Sheikhoun, also on the international road.

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