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Syrian forces retake more terrorist-held towns in Idlib Province

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A file photo released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) shows Syrian army units and allied forces deploying at an undisclosed location in the Atshan village in the province of Hama, on October 11, 2015. (Photo by AFP)

Syrian troops have liberated several key villages and adjoining farms during a large-scale counter-terrorism offensive in the northwestern province of Idlib.

Official news agency SANA said troops pressed ahead with their advances in the southeastern countryside of Idlib on Thursday, and liberated strategic villages of Halban, Samaka, Tal Khatra and Khirbet Nawwaf from Takfiri terrorists. 

The capture came after "intense battles" with the extremists, SANA said, noting that army soldiers inflicted heavy losses upon them and destroyed their vehicles and military hardware.

Syrian troops also successfully foiled an attack on military outposts by a group of heavily-armed militants near Abu al-Dohour village. The army launched a counteroffensive, inflicting heavy losses on the enemy.

Russia’s Sputnik news agency said the Syrian army had taken control of the villages of al-Samaka, Khwein Elshaer and al-Duliam, as well as the farms of Nawaf and al-Mushamis," all in the eastern part of Idlib province.

Earlier in the week, the Syrian troops entered the town of Jarjanaz, which is located 10 kilometers east of Ma'arrat al-Nu'man, a major stronghold of militants in the southern part of Idlib. 

Syrian forces have gained ground after a week-long assault against the last terrorist enclave in Syria's northwest, the biggest such push in more than three months.

The Syrian army recently said it had regained control over more than 20 villages and hilltops and was coming close to one of the 12 Turkish observation posts in the northwest.

In recent days, Syrian government forces have succeeded in wresting full control over several villages, following heavy exchanges of gunfire with the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham terrorists.

The Takfiris were using the villages as a launching pad for their mortar attacks on areas in southern Idlib, which have returned to government control.

On August 5, the Syrian army declared the start of an offensive against foreign-sponsored militants in Idlib. This came after those positioned in the de-escalation zone failed to honor a ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey and continued to target civilian neighborhoods.

Under the Sochi agreement, all militants in the demilitarized zone that surrounds Idlib, and also parts of the provinces of Aleppo and Hama, were supposed to pull out heavy arms by October 17 last year, with the Takfiri groups having to withdraw two days earlier.

The National Front for the Liberation of Syria is the main Turkish-backed militant alliance in the Idlib region, but the Takfiri Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) terrorist group, which is a coalition of different factions of terror outfits largely composed of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, holds a large part of the province and the zone.

The HTS, which is said to be in control of a large part of Idlib, has yet to announce its stance on the buffer zone deal.

Turkey-backed terrorists steal property of Syrian locals 

In a separate report on Thursday, SANA said Turkey-backed militants groups had continued to plunder the property of local residents on the outskirts of the Kurdish town of Ra's al-Ayn in the northeastern Syrian province of Hasakah. 

Five buses carrying dozens of Turkish-backed fighters entered the troubled region to occupy properties abandoned by the local population, the report added. 

The groups affiliated with Turkey have been blamed for a growing ledger of abuses against the local population, undermining Turkey’s stated goal of creating a “safe zone” for civilians.

Thousands of people have been internally displaced by the Turkish-led offensive. 

Local Syrians say Turkey-backed fighters have carried out summary executions and beatings, kidnapped or detained their relatives and looted their houses, businesses and belongings.

On October 9, Turkish military forces and Ankara-backed militants launched a long-threatened cross-border invasion of northeastern Syria in a declared attempt to push YPG Kurdish militants away from border areas.

Ankara views the US-backed YPG as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since 1984.

On October 22, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed a memorandum of understanding, demanding YPG militants withdraw from the Turkish-controlled "safe zone" in northeastern Syria within 150 hours, after which Ankara and Moscow would run joint patrols around the area.

The Kurdish-led administration in northeastern Syria says the Turkish offensive has killed nearly 220 civilians, including 18 children, since its outset.

Ankara has threatened to launch another military operation in the swathe of land bordering Turkey unless the pullout of Kurdish forces from the area is completed.

Ankara wants to see a 32-kilometer “safe zone” established in northeastern Syria cleared of Kurdish militants, where it can relocate a great percentage of the more than three million Syrian refugees living in Turkey.

The armed conflict began in Syria in 2011. But the Syrian military, backed by its allies, have taken back control of most of the areas that had been held by militant and terrorist groups.

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