Syrian military offensive in Idlib worries France, needs Astana deal revered


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.

Militant factions justified their withdrawal decision by saying that a mass encirclement of rebel fighters in southwest Aleppo due to Syrian Army advances in eastern Idlib was highly possible and this made it strategically unfeasible or militarily wasteful to defend the Al-Hass region.

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.

The stance of the French Foreign Ministry has proven to be based on "ignorance" of what is happening in the countrysides of Hama and Idlib, the Syrian ministry said, adding that the Syrian army is fighting the LLC, which was previously known as the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front.

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Rebels launched a counter attack on Thursday.

Rebel sources said warplanes had struck Khan Sheikhoun and Saraqeb, two major population centers in Idlib province that are among several towns that have been targeted in the latest offensive.

The area is part of a de-escalation zone agreement in the Kazakh capital Astana previous year between Turkey, which supports rebel groups, and Assad allies Iran and Russian Federation.

Now, an intense military showdown is taking place in the countryside of Idlib and Hama, a military source told Xinhua, adding that it is hard for the rebels to capture over 120 towns taken by the army in both Hama and Idlib since the Syrian army unleashed their attack in both countrysides two weeks ago. By the end of last week, they had advanced into Idlib, close to an insurgent-held military airport.