Syrian army offensive in Idlib worries France, wants Astana deal respected

Syrian army offensive in Idlib worries France, wants Astana deal respected

Further complicating the Thursday counterattack by rebels in the Idlib Province, the Syrian state media outlet SANA is quoting Syrian commanders who say that the Turkish government participated in the rebel push.

Russia's Defence Ministry had asked the Turkish military on Wednesday to tighten control over armed groups in Idlib after two groups of drones attacked Russian bases on January 6.

Their major goal is to drive back the Syrian army from the strategic Abu al-Duhur air base in the southeastern countryside of Idlib, whose falling will deal a big blow to the rebels in Idlib as well as in the southern countryside of Aleppo province in northern Syria.

The al-Qaida-linked Levant Liberation Committee (LLC) refused to join the two rebel operation parts, and chose to fight the Syrian army alone, according to the report.

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Idlib province is nearly entirely controlled by a jihadi outfit known as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) consisting mostly of fighters from a former al-Qaida affiliate.

Syrian regime forces faced fierce resistance from jihadists as they fought to capture a key airbase in the northwestern province of Idlib on Thursday, a monitor said.

The largest opposition-held area, Idlib has been under attack for many months with Syrian and Iranian forces escalating airstrikes and ground assaults in the past three weeks, resulting in a string of villages being won by the regime.

The latest push by the army and its allies has alarmed Turkey which has been deploying forces inside northern Idlib and setting up bases which it says are part of agreements with Iran and Russian Federation over a descalation zone in Idlib. A Syrian military source denied this and dismissed rebel talk of a counter attack as propaganda.

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