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28 February, 2020 11:07:14 AM

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Syria rebels re-enter key Idlib crossroads town

AFP, Saraqeb, Syria
Syria rebels re-enter key Idlib crossroads town
A Turkey-backed Syrian fighter fires a truck-mounted gun toward the town of Saraqeb from the outskits of the villages of Afis and Salihiyah situated near the regime-controlled town, in the eastern part of the Idlib province in northwestern Syria, on Wednesday. AFP Photo

Syrian rebels reentered the key northwestern crossroads town of Saraqeb lost to government forces earlier this month but fierce fighting raged on in its outskirts yesterday, an AFP correspondent reported. The counterattack by jihadist fighters and their rebel allies cuts the main Damascus-Aleppo highway, which passes through the town, and reverses one of the principal gains of the devastating offensive the government launched against the country’s last major rebel bastion in Idlib province in December. 

State news agency SANA acknowledged that there were “fierce clashes” between the army and “terrorist groups on the Saraqeb front”. An AFP correspondent accompanied the rebels into Saraqeb, where he found a ghost town of bombed out buildings deserted by its inhabitants. The correspondent saw rebel fighters deploy inside the town in large numbers, where they come under attack from government forces on the outskirts as well as from the air. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the air strikes were carried out by government ally Russia, which has come under heavy Western criticism for the high civilian death toll from its bombing campaign.

State media accused the “terrorists” of launching car bombings and other suicide attacks against government forces attempting to retake the town which they had held since February 8.

It said that the army had inflicted heavy losses on the attackers, despite the military support it said they had received from neighbouring Turkey. Some 950,0000 civilians have fled the government offensive, raising fears in Ankara of a new mass influx of refugees.

Turkey already hosts the world’s largest number of Syrian refugees with around 3.6 million people placing an increasingly unpopular burden on public services.

The Turkish defence ministry said on Thursday that two of its soldiers had been killed by government fire in Idlib, taking its losses this month alone to 19.

Turkey, which supports several rebel groups in the Idlib region, immediately responded to the attack by hitting Syrian “regime targets”, the ministry said on Twitter.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed on Wednesday that Ankara would not take the “smallest step back” in the standoff with Damascus and Moscow over Idlib.

HM

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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