Syrian military offensive in Idlib worries France, needs Astana deal revered

14 January, 2018, 00:35 | Author: Irene Delgado
  • US calls on Assad regime to dismantle chemical weapons programme

Ninety-six civilians, including 27 children, have been killed in Syrian or Russian airstrikes on Idlib province since the start of the offensive, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Rebels fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) said in a statement they had set up a joint operations room to repel the offensive and take back areas seized by the government in northeastern Hama and southern Idlib. FSA rebels and the Nusra Front had been reported to have been fighting.

"We are witnessing a clear intensification of Russia's military strategy, with systematic attacks on civilian facilities perpetrated with total disregard for global law", warns Fadel Abdul Ghany, Chairperson of the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR).

Idlib province is nearly entirely controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a jihadist outfit dominated by Al-Qaeda's former Syrian affiliate.

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Activists said the Syrian government forces' offensive and advance in Idlib has united the rebel factions to confront it, which could undermine the armed insurgency in Syria as Idlib is the major gathering point and rebel bastion in Syria, following the defeat of the Islamic State (IS) late previous year.

Several militant groups, including Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham, launched an attack Thursday against military forces advancing toward the strategic Abu Dhuhur air base in the northwestern province and captured several villages.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Thursday he should stop Syrian attacks on its opposition in northern Syria if he wants peace negotiations to succeed, Turkish presidential sources said.

On Wednesday, 35 soldiers were killed at the airport, according to the Observatory.

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