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Violent battles after the factions regained a strategic city in northwestern Syria

SYRIA (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — The fighting factions, headed by the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham, on Thursday regained control of a city with a strategic location in northwestern Syria, after three weeks of control by the regime forces, in a field retreat that is the most prominent for Damascus since its escalation in the region.

The Syrian situation is attending the table of a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Thursday in New York, while the international powers seem unable to stop the attack launched by Damascus with the support of its ally Moscow three months ago and pushed about a million people to leave their homes.

On Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that “jihadi factions and other opposition forces with Turkish support control the city of Saraqib completely,” pointing to violent battles being waged against the regime forces on its outskirts, and accompanied by heavy raids by Russian aircraft.

In the morning, an AFP correspondent was able to enter the city in the eastern countryside of Idlib, after the presence of large numbers of faction fighters. He said that it appeared completely free of its residents and was subjected to great destruction while the sound of battles on its outskirts was hesitating throughout.

The restoration of the factions to the city comes three weeks after the regime forces seized it, as part of a widespread offensive launched by Russian support since the beginning of December against areas under the control of the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham (formerly Nusra) and other less influential opposition factions.

For its part, the official Syrian News Agency, SANA, reported “violent clashes between Syrian Arab Army units and terrorist groups on the Saraqib axis.”

It stated that “terrorist groups are dumped with dozens of immersion, suicide bombers and car bombs” on the outskirts of the western city, “with heavy firepower from the Turkish regime forces.”

“Attack against civilians”

With its control over Saraqib, the factions managed, according to the observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman, to France Press, to cross the Damascus-Aleppo International Road known as “M Five”, after the regime forces had regained control of all the towns it passed through in Idlib.

The importance of Saraqib lies not only with its location on the M5 road, but also as it forms the meeting point of this road with another international road known as the “M4” and connects the provinces of Aleppo and Idlib to Latakia in the west.

The escalation in Idlib has caused tension recently between Damascus and Ankara, which regularly exchange shelling. 19 Turkish soldiers have been killed since the past few weeks, by regime forces, two of them with Thursday’s raid, according to the Turkish Ministry of Defense.

And Ankara, which continues to send military reinforcements to Idlib and provides support to the factions in its attacks, has 12 observation points, according to an agreement concluded in the summer of 2018 with Moscow, and diplomats and military officials from both countries will hold a meeting Thursday in Ankara.

Turkey reiterates its demand for the regime forces to stop its offensive that drove more than 948,000 people, more than half of them children, to move according to the United Nations. It also caused the death of more than 400 civilians, according to the observatory.

The United Nations had warned on Monday that the fighting was approaching “dangerously” with the overcrowded camps for the displaced, which could lead to a “bloodbath.”

On Tuesday, aerial and artillery shelling targeted a number of schools in and around Idlib, killing at least three teachers and a student, as well as 16 other civilians in separate strikes.

“This crisis requires urgent attention from world leaders,” the International Rescue Committee said in a statement Thursday, calling for a truce in Idlib and concrete intervention by the Security Council.

He stressed the need for “the parties to the conflict to feel pressure to end this attack against civilians.”

– 20 villages and towns –

As Damascus repels the Saraqib attack, its forces continue to advance on other axes in Idlib, where the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham and the opposition factions now control half of the Idlib area. Areas controlled by three million people are home to half of them displaced from other governorates.

On Thursday, regime forces seized twenty villages and towns in the southern Idlib countryside, according to the observatory.

“The regime forces control the southern Idlib countryside, which extends from the city of Maarat al-Numan to the south of Jisr al-Shughour,” Abdul-Rahman said.

Damascus is seeking to advance in this area to drive away the militant factions through the “M4”. To achieve its goal, it must “launch attacks on the cities of Jericho and Jisr Al-Shughour,” according to Abdul Rahman.

Analysts say the battle will not be easy because the vacancy bridge is a stronghold of the Turkistan Islamic Party, which includes the majority of Chinese fighters from the Uyghur minority.

After nearly nine years of conflict, the regime forces have taken control of more than seventy percent of the country, after advancing in recent years on several fronts with the support of its allies, led by Russia.

Since the outbreak of the Syrian conflict in the middle of March 2011, the Syrian conflict has killed more than 380,000 people, destroyed infrastructure and drained the economy, apart from the displacement and displacement of more than half of the population inside and outside the country.

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