Syrian regime forces yesterday launched their second military operation against the southeast of Idlib, aiming at regaining full control over the war-torn province.
Russia’s Sputnik reported that the Syrian forces were able to take control of Idlib’s Tal Khaznah and Lobidiyah towns following “heavy air strikes backed by the Russian air forces.”
The offensive comes days after Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad said that he would start an operation to recapture the Idlib province.
“The Syrian army is considering giving civilians a chance to get out of Idlib,” he pointed out, adding he was “considering other ways to enter it [Idlib]” different to those used to enter Hama and Homs.
Idlib – the last stronghold of the Syrian opposition – falls within the de-escalation zone laid out in the deal reached between Turkey and Russia in late 2018. Since then, over 1,300 civilians have been killed in attacks by the regime and Russian forces in the de-escalation zone.
Notably, about a million people have been forced to leave conflict-prone areas of the city and started taking shelter in safer areas in the northern part of the city bordering Turkey.
There are over 3.6 million Syrians currently taking shelter in Turkey. Earlier this month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed the return of 365,000 Syrians to homes in the “safe zones” setup by his forces in northern Syria.
This came a month after the Turkish army launched Operation Peace Spring east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria, to establish a safe zone for the return of Syrian refugees to their country. The operation was suspended on 17 October after Ankara and Washington reached an agreement to withdraw fighters from the region, and another accord with Russia in the city of Sochi on 22 October.