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Syria army retakes Saraqib city in Idlib from opposition

Civil defence members and locals conduct search and rescue works at a debris of a building after Assad Regime's warplanes carried out airstrikes over the de-escalation zone of Saraqib district in Idlib, Syria on 22 June, 2019 [Hasan Muhtar/Anadolu Agency]
Civil defence members and locals conduct search and rescue works at a debris of a building after Assad Regime's warplanes carried out airstrikes over the de-escalation zone of Saraqib district in Idlib, Syria on 22 June, 2019 [Hasan Muhtar/Anadolu Agency]

The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has retaken the strategically located city of Saraqib from Turkish-backed opposition forces having lost control of the area on Thursday. Saraqib, which is in the province of Idlib, connects the M4 and M5 highways and enables the government to link Aleppo with other government-held towns and cities.

Supported by Russian airstrikes and Hezbollah fighters, the SAA managed to enter Saraqib after overcoming the main line of defence of the opposition. Syrian state news agency, SANA reported that SAA units are currently combing through the city for any remaining threats.

Read: Opposition in Syria regains control of 9 villages in Idlib

There have also been reports that several Turkish drones were downed last night during the offensive. State media claimed three had been downed, while other sources have claimed at least six were shot down following the SAA implementing a no-fly zone over Idlib yesterday. "Any aircraft which violate Syria's airspace will be treated as enemy military targets…They will be tracked immediately after detection and destroyed immediately after violating our airspace," Syrian Armed Forces Command said in a press statement.

The day before, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights stated that dozens of Syrian soldiers had been killed within 24 hours in Idlib by Turkish drone attacks. Last night however there were reports Russia had resumed activity in the air having carried out airstrikes against a Turkish convoy near Sarmin in southern Idlib.

Idlib, which is the last remaining opposition-held province, has seen intense escalations in military confrontations between Turkish forces in support of opposition fighters against the SAA and allied forces amid the February deadline set by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the SAA to withdraw beyond the demilitarised zone and the declaration of "Operation Spring Shield" in Idlib. Yesterday, the Kremlin reaffirmed Russia's support to Syria will continue in its "war against terrorism".

Opinion: Turkey is starting to pay the price for undermining Syria's sovereignty

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