World

Syria flare-up leaves 83 fighters dead: Monitor

June 07, 2019
Members of the Syrian Civil Defence (known as the White Helmets) evacuate an injured boy following a reported air strike by pro-government forces on the village of Babuline near the town of Khan Shaykhun, in Idlib province on Friday. — AFP
Members of the Syrian Civil Defence (known as the White Helmets) evacuate an injured boy following a reported air strike by pro-government forces on the village of Babuline near the town of Khan Shaykhun, in Idlib province on Friday. — AFP

BEIRUT — Fierce clashes between Russia-backed government forces and militants have left 83 combatants dead in northwestern Syria in the past 24 hours, a Britain-based war monitor said on Friday.

The clashes on the edge of the rebel-controlled Idlib region have killed 44 government loyalists and 39 militants and fighters since Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The region of some three million people — almost half of them displaced from other parts of the country — is dominated by the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham alliance led by Al-Qaeda's former Syrian affiliate.

The alliance administers a region that spans most of Idlib province as well as adjacent slivers of the neighboring Latakia, Aleppo, and Hama provinces.

The region has seen a spike in bombardment since late April, with regime forces seizing several towns on the region's southwestern flank.

Late Thursday, the militants and allied rebels launched a counterattack against regime forces in the northwest of Hama province.

They have since seized the villages of Tal Maleh and Jibeen there, the Observatory said.

"Violent clashes are ongoing, accompanied by regime and Russian air strikes," Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.

The fighting is raging near Christian and Alawite areas under regime control, he said.

In the Idlib province, two children were killed overnight — one in regime rocket fire in the village of Frike and another in an air strike in the town of Khan Sheikhun, the Observatory said.

The militants who took part in the counterattack include some from the Al-Qaeda-linked Hurras Al-Deen and Turkistan Islamic Party.

Idlib is supposed to be protected from a massive regime offensive by a September buffer zone deal signed between regime ally Russia and rebel backer Turkey.

But it was never fully implemented as jihadists refused to withdraw from the planned demilitarized zone.

The government and Russia have upped their bombardment of the region since late April, killing more than 300 civilians, according to the Observatory.

The United Nations say more than 270,000 people have fled their homes.

A total of 24 health facilities and 35 schools have been hit in the latest escalation, according to the UN's humanitarian office.

Eight years into Syria's civil war, two regions largely remain beyond regime control: a large northeastern swathe held by the country's Kurds, and Idlib.

The war, which started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government demonstrations, has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions. — AFP


June 07, 2019
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