UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (VOP TODAY NEWS) — The Syrian army seized control of a group of towns and villages it had lost in the early eight-year war and continued its offensive in the northwest, the last major rebel stronghold in Syria.
Friday’s advance ends the presence of the opposition in the countryside of Hama, the latest blow to its fighters, who have suffered a series of defeats across Syria, and the distance between government forces and a Turkish military post in the area.
Government forces bombed southern Idlib and nearby Hama by air and land this week, continuing an offensive that triggered a new wave of displacement. The United Nations says the escalation, which began in late April, has left hundreds dead.
Opposition officials did not respond to requests for comment.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad turned to Idlib after regaining control of most of Syria with the help of Russia and Iran.
But the prospect of further progress hinders Turkey’s interests near its borders, as well as the presence of US troops alongside Kurdish fighters in the northeast.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Friday that Syrian army attacks in Idlib were causing a major humanitarian crisis and threatening Turkey’s national security, the presidency said.
Erdogan told Putin in a phone call that the attacks violated a ceasefire in Idlib and damaged efforts to resolve the conflict in Syria, the presidency said.
The army’s recent gains have put Turkish troops in Idlib in the crossfire and threaten Ankara’s hopes of avoiding another wave of refugees to its border.
* Displacement wave
Many of the nearly 500,000 people displaced by the conflict fled to the Turkish border.
Under agreements with Russia, Turkish troops are stationed at 12 military sites in the Idlib area, including one in the town of Murk, where the Syrian army pushed in on Friday.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkish soldiers were not trapped and that they were staying at the observation post of their choice, not because they had to.
“No one can impose a blockade on our troops and soldiers,” he told a news conference in Beirut. We are discussing this issue with Russia and Iran. ”
“We are not there because we cannot go out but because we do not want to go out. We are there in line with our agreement with Russia. ”
A series of Russian-Turkish talks, including a truce agreement last year to establish a “demilitarized” buffer zone, failed to stop the fighting in Idlib.
“Our armed forces operating north of Hama and southern Idlib continued to advance their field and defeat armed terrorist organizations … after suffering heavy losses of life and equipment,” the Syrian army said in a statement on Friday.
“After intensive strikes over the previous days and tightening the cordon on the entire northern countryside of Hama, our brave soldiers were able to clear the following towns and villages: Khan Sheikhoun, Murk, Latamneh, Sayad Hill, Warehouses, Wadi al-Anz, Wadi al-Asal, Kafarzita, Latmeen, Maarikah, Western Victims, Eastern Victims, Tall Fez, Tal Tammin and Wadi Hsmin” The valley of two parts and the horse heels … progress continues at high rates.”
According to the state-run Al-Akhbariya television, government forces are expanding their control over a major road in the area from Damascus to Aleppo.
A live broadcast from Kfar Zita, which opposition fighters had controlled since 2012, showed the streets empty and the buildings marked by shelling.
Moscow and Damascus say they are responding to attacks from HTS (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra), the dominant force in Idlib.
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