Syria opposition launch new offensive against regime in Idlib

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

France said on Wednesday it was "extremely concerned" by a Syrian government offensive in the rebel-held northwestern province of Idlib and demanded that commitments made at an worldwide deal in Astana to reduce hostilities be respected.

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 activists said the warplane belonged to the Syrian army.

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. FSA rebels and the Nusra Front had been reported to have been fighting.

Militant forces linked to the Syrian affiliate of Al-Qaeda are reinforcing their positions opposite Syrian Arab Army lines in southwest Aleppo province after initially disengaging from the region several days ago, Al-Masdar News says. "We have killed many".

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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.

In their counter-offensive Thursday, the rebels captured the towns of Khwein, Atshan Abu Omar, and Um Khalakhel from the Syrian army.

In May previous year, Russia, Iran and Turkey signed an agreement to set up de-escalation centres in Syria.

Many Syrians living in rebel-held areas see Turkey's military intervention as a bulwark against a relentless bombing campaign by Syrian and Russian airforces they blame for killing and injuring hundreds of civilians in urban areas in recent months, away from the frontlines.

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