Published: Sun, January 14, 2018
Global | By Shelia Dennis

Syrian government defends Idlib campaign, condemns France

Syrian government defends Idlib campaign, condemns France

Almost three million people are believed to be in the Idlib region, their numbers swelled by fighters and civilians who fled Syrian army advances elsewhere in the country.

Turkey has been a major backer of Syrian rebels, but has recently been working with Damascus's allies Iran and Russian Federation in meetings with the stated aim of reducing violence.

"The operation is to hit the belly of the regime deep into liberated territories and to encircle their advancing forces", said Abdul Hakim al Rahamon, a senior official in Jaish al Nasr, an FSA faction taking part.

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Recapturing the Abu Zuhour air base, which the rebels took in 2015, has been one of the main targets of a major government offensive into Idlib that began in late October.

Activists said the Syrian government forces' offensive and advance in Idlib has united the rebel factions to confront it, which could undermine the armed insurgency in Syria as Idlib is the major gathering point and rebel bastion in Syria, following the defeat of the Islamic State (IS) late previous year.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said regime forces were able to enter Abu Duhur airbase under air cover and were engaged in fierce fighting with the jihadists.

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On Dec. 11, 2017, Putin ordered the start of a withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria, adding that the Tartus and Khmeimim bases would still be in use.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Foreign Ministry denied claims by the French Foreign Ministry about the Syrian army's targeting of hospitals and civilians during the military campaign in Idlib.

The Russian Ministry of Defense had previously insinuated the USA had helped.

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On Wednesday, 35 soldiers were killed at the airport, said the Observatory, which relies on a network of sources on the ground in the war-torn country.

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