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13 civilians killed in Idlib market bombing

Local | 2019-12-02 12:40:00
13 civilians killed in Idlib market bombing
(Zaman Al Wasl)- Syrian regime air strikes on rebel-held Idlib province have killed at least 13 people and wounded 20 more, local activists said Monday.
The strikes hit a vegetable market in the densely populated town of Maarat al-Numan, south of Idlib city. 

The battles between regime forces and armed groups in the northwestern province of Idlib are the most violent there since a Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement went into effect in late August, said the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

According to Syria's Response Coordinators Team, at least 61,229 people have been displaced in Idlib since the beginning of November.

On Sunday morning, clouds of smoke rose over the Maaret al-Numan region as warplanes pounded jihadists and allied rebels in positions they had recently recaptured from regime forces, said an AFP correspondent.

Three days of clashes have killed nearly 70 on both sides.

Residents of affected villages fled north to escape the fighting, adding to the tens of thousands who have already flooded out of the province's violence-plagued south since an escalation started earlier this year.

The Observatory on Sunday put the death toll from fighting at 69 combatants since battles started the previous day.

At least 36 regime forces were among those killed. Two Russian troops, including officer, were killed in the clashes in the village of al-Khyara near Sanjar town, according to Zaman al-Wasl sources 

A Russian helicopter transferred the slain troops to Hmeimym base.

It said an attack led by Syria's former Al-Qaeda affiliate on several regime positions had initially sparked the fighting.

Four villages were also taken by rebels from regime forces and allied Shiite militias east of Idlib city, such an advance followed unprecedented bombing by Damascus and Moscow on the northwestern enclave. 

The Turkish-backed National Liberation Front has ambushed the regime forces near the town of  Tal Dam east of Idlib city, killing 6 troops while 20 more troops were killed near Sanjar town.

Overnight, the regime army backed by Russian warplanes launched a counter-push to reclaim territory it had lost in the battles, according to the Britain-based war monitor.

Regime forces have since regained lost ground but violent clashes are ongoing, the war monitor and an AFP correspondent said.

The Idlib region, home to around three million people including many displaced by Syria's eight-year civil war, is controlled by the country's former Al-Qaeda affiliate.

The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham jihadist alliance also controls parts of neighbouring Aleppo and Latakia provinces where battles with regime forces have also recently taken place.

The region is one of the last holdouts of opposition to forces of Bashar al-Assad.

A ceasefire announced by Russia in late August has reduced violence in the area.

Between the end of April and the end of August, Idlib was pounded ceaselessly by Syrian soldiers backed by Russian air power.

The Observatory estimates that nearly 1,000 civilians were killed in that period, and the UN says that more than 400,000 people were displaced.

The regime army has been pressing to take a strategic territory located between Idlib and Latakia province to cut the main supply route and to weaken the unprecedented resistance by rebels.

Bashar al-Assad, who now controls around 60 percent of the country, has vowed to reclaim the rest, including Idlib and small pockets in Latakia. 

Rebels and jihadists have killed more than 130,000 pro-regime forces since the armed conflict erupted eight years ago with the brutal repression of protests against Assad, according to local monitoring groups.

In their turn, Latakia rebels has also thwarted four incursion attempts by regime forces and Shiiite militias on Kabana hilltops, killing 18 troops and destroying two tanks.

Eight years of war in Syria have killed 560,000 people and driven half the pre-war population of 22 million from their homes, including more than 6 million as refugees to neighbouring countries.

Zaman Al Wasl with Agencies

Zaman Al Wasl
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