Syrian regime forces have entered parts of opposition-held Idlib in the northwest of Syria, at the same time as Russian air strikes killed ten women and children in the province, according to Syrian news agency Zaman Al-Wasl.
Idlib is a de-escalation zone as established by Russia, Turkey and Iran during peace negotiations; however this has not stopped months of attacks by forces allied to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad on the province’s borders, as well as in the neighbouring region of Hama.
Since Thursday, the Syrian army has waded further into opposition-held territory, taking control of multiple villages such as Tal Al-Khazanir, from the Hayat Tahrir Al-Shaam alliance.
The regime was supported in its assault by Russian forces, which have carried out dozens of air strikes in the southern part of the province, killing at least six women and four children in the town of Khan Sheikhoun yesterday.
— Elizabeth Tsurkov (@Elizrael) December 17, 2017
Opposition groups in control of the areas have said they were sending reinforcements to seize back the countryside villages in Idlib and Hama.
Captain Mustafa Mararti, spokesman for Jaish Al-Izza, a key Free Syrian Army unit, yesterday confirmed that his group launched attacks on regime forces in the northern countryside of Hama, taking a village and number of checkpoints.
Idlib and its surrounding areas have been under control of opposition groups since 2015, forming a strategic stronghold for numerous factions. Turkish forces entered the region in October to facilitate the terms of the agreement decided during talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, alongside Russia and Iran.
At the end of October, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that his forces had “largely completed” their operation at reducing fighting between the regime and opposition groups, despite ongoing bombardment by Assad forces and its affiliates that have killed thousands of civilians, destroying hospitals and civil defence centres.
Last week, Russia announced that it would be withdrawing some of its soldiers from Syria after completing its two-year campaign against Daesh. It is believed that the remaining Russian forces will focus on eradicating the power of opposition groups in an attempt to bring the six year conflict to a close and preserve the Assad regime.