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Russian-led forces enter Saraqeb town: eyewitnesses, war monitor

Local | 2020-02-05 22:14:00
Russian-led forces enter Saraqeb town: eyewitnesses, war monitor
Russian-led Syrian regime forces entered Saraqeb in northwestern Idlib province, a war monitor and eye witnesses said on Wednesday, in a renewed push by Bashar al-Assad to recapture the last rebel stronghold.

Regime forces were combing the town after rebel fighters fled following intense aerial and ground bombardment of Saraqeb, 15 km (9 miles) east of Idlib city, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on its website.

Eye witnesses told Reuters that rebel fighters had left and that Assad forces were in control of the town, which lies at the junction of two main roads that Damascus seeks to fully control.

Syrian state-run TV said on Wednesday that the roads were now within firing range of regime forces.

Opposition activists denied regime reports saying that armed factions led by National Front are still defending the town, thwarting incursion attempts by the elite Fourth Mechanical Division in to the town. 

Rebel commander told Zaman al-Wasl that rebels have killed 30 troops and destroyed four tanks on Wednesday.

Assad’s campaign to regain Idlib province, the last rebel bastion in a nearly nine-year-long civil war, has sparked a new exodus of thousands of civilians towards the border with Turkey, which backs some insurgent groups fighting Assad.

The renewed fighting is taking place despite a Jan. 12 ceasefire deal between Turkey and Russia, which back opposing sides of the conflict. Shelling by regime forces killed eight Turkish military personnel on Monday, prompting Turkish forces to strike back.

Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan threatened on Wednesday to drive back Syrian troops in Idlib unless they withdraw by the end of the month to stem an assault which he said had displaced nearly 1 million people.

Meanwhile, Eight humanitarian aid organisations on Wednesday called for an immediate ceasefire in northwestern Syria, where hostilities have displaced half a million people in the past two months.

The violence in the jihadist-ruled region of Idlib has forced 520,000 people out of their homes since the start of December, in one of the biggest upheavals in the nine-year civil war.

The aid groups -- including the Norwegian Refugee Council, Save the Children, Care and the International Rescue Committee -- labelled the situation a "humanitarian catastrophe".

They called for "an immediate cessation of hostilities in addition to immediate access to safety for the millions of civilians currently under fire".

Jan Egeland, head of the Norwegian Refugee Council, warned that the newly arrived were running out of options as to where to go.

"Camps are hosting five times their intended occupancy and rental prices have skyrocketed in towns in the north west," he said.

"We are calling on Turkey to let these terrified families seek safety either across the border or in areas Turkey controls in Syria."

Andrew Morley, the head of World Vision International, said children were sleeping in flooded fields, and some families were even burning their clothes to stay warm.

"The exodus of people is staggering, and tens of thousands more are joining them every day," he said.

The recent of violence has killed around 300 civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor says.

The World Health Organization said on Monday that the violence had forced 53 medical facilities in northwest Syria to close in January and warned of "critical health threats" to fleeing civilians.

Nearly half a million people have been killed and millions displaced in Syria's long-running civil war, which erupted in 2011 in the form of anti-government protests amid Arab Spring uprisings and eventually turned into an armed insurgency.


Agencies, Zaman Al Wasl

 
Zaman Al Wasl
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