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Syrian forces fully recapture main militant stronghold in southern Idlib

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)
This handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on January 29, 2020 shows Syrian army soldiers inside Ma'arrat al-Nu'man city, located 33 kilometers (21 miles) south of Idlib.

Syrian army soldiers, backed by pro-government fighters from popular defense groups, have fully liberated a strategic city in the country’s northwestern province of Idlib as they continue to gain more ground in battles against foreign-sponsored Takfiri terrorists.

Syria's General Command of the Army and Armed Forces said in a statement that government forces were in full control of Ma'arrat al-Nu'man city, which lies 33 kilometers (21 miles) south of Idlib, on Wednesday.

“Our armed forces continued operations in southern parts of Idlib with the aim of putting an end to crimes committed by terrorist groups, which continue to target safe zones, civilians and army posts with rockets and explosives,” the statement added.

It further noted that Syrian soldiers have managed to establish control over more than two dozen villages and towns, including Ma'ar Shimmareen, Tell Mannas, Ma’ar Shamshah, Ma'ar Shoreen, al-Za'lanah, Babeela, al-Dana, al-Hamidiah, Bseideh, Tqana and Kafr Basin, after days of intense fighting with Takfiri militants.

The statement also underlined that the Syrian army will continue to carry out its constitutional, national and moral duties to purge the last remnants of terror outfits from the entire Syrian soil.

The capture of Ma'arrat al-Nu'man will now enable the Syrian army to secure the road that links Hama to Aleppo, and will facilitate transportation between the capital Damascus and Aleppo to return to the pre-conflict conditions.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Takfiri militants had withdrawn from the city late on Tuesday.

Syrian army troops had reportedly left a road west of Ma'arrat al-Nu'man open in order to give Takfiri militants a chance to pull out and to avoid street battles inside the strategic city.

The territorial gain came as Syrian forces are also advancing against militants west of the city of Aleppo.

Lebanon’s Arabic-language al-Manar television network reported that Syrian army soldiers had taken control of a number of neighborhoods southwest of Aleppo, killing and wounding scores of militants from Jabhat Fatah al-Sham –previously known as the Nusra Front – terror group in the process.

On Saturday, Syria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates wrote to the United Nations, stressing that the operation in Idlib and Aleppo against Takfiri elements "will not stop until the elimination of those terrorists, who threaten safety and security of Syrian civilians."

The Syrian army declared the start of an offensive against foreign-sponsored militants in Idlib on August 5 last year.

It 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 west-central province of Hama, were supposed to pull out heavy arms by October 17 2018, with the Takfiri groups having to withdraw two days earlier.

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