Published: Wed, February 12, 2020
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

Syrian govt forces seize key highway in northwest: monitor

Syrian govt forces seize key highway in northwest: monitor

On Monday, the government reported that Turkish forces had bombarded five Syrian military positions in retaliation for the killing of five soldiers and wounding of five more in the northern Idlib province.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also warned Assad's government that it will "pay a very, very heavy price" for attacks on Turkish troops.

Five Turkish soldiers have been killed in an attack carried out on a military base in Idlib province by Syrian government forces.

The Turkish defence ministry said Turkish forces responded to Monday's attack by hitting 115 Syrian government targets and "neutralising" 101 soldiers.

Eight Turkish military personnel were killed in a similar attack on Saraqeb, south of Taftanaz. Erdogan's office said the Russian delegation was told that attacks on Turkish posts in Idlib must stop immediately and promised to retaliate to further attacks.

Hundreds of civilians have been killed in the latest fighting, according to the United Nations.

He said the offensive in Idlib was threatening Turkey's relations with Russian Federation. Moscow also did not open the airspace over Idlib for the Turkish Air Force, reducing the operation's likelihood of success even if Moscow avoids direct military involvement in the fight.

On Tuesday, government and allied forces retook the Rashideen al-Rabea area near Aleppo, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

"The current Idlib tensions embody the difference of interests both of Russia and of Turkey that has never stopped to exist", said Russian expert Zaur Gasimov of the University of Bonn.

Rescue teams said on Tuesday that Russian and Syrian war planes bombed several towns in Idlib, with most air raids in western Aleppo. The Observatory said the airstrike killed 12 civilians, half of them children, and wounded about 30. Idlib province is home to some 3million people.

Over the course of the now nine-year conflict, almost a quarter of the 3 million people from Idlib and surrounding areas have fled north. Turkey, which is a main backer of the Syrian opposition, has sent hundreds of vehicles into Idlib apparently to prevent government forces from reaching the border areas with Turkey.

Turkey, which already hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees, says it can not absorb any more and has demanded that Damascus pull back in Idlib by the end of the month or face Turkish action.

The regime supported by Moscow has pursued an assault against Idlib, home to an estimated three million, for more than two months.

The Idlib region is a dead-end for hundreds of thousands of people who were forced to flee or were evacuated from formerly rebel-held territory elsewhere in Syria.

"It has the world's largest concentration of displaced people and urgently need a cessation of hostilities so as not to turn it into a graveyard", Laerke added.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu urged Russian Federation and Iran (another Damascus ally which has sent sectarian Shiite fighters from across the region to back Syria's regime) to stop President Bashar al-Assad's assault on Idlib province.

On Sunday raids by regime ally Russian Federation left 14 people dead, including nine in the village of Kar Nuran in southwestern Aleppo province, the monitor said.

Along with regime ally Russian Federation, it is the key foreign broker in northern Syria, but a 2018 deal aimed at averting a major offensive has failed to take hold.

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