Syrian regime forces were sent fleeing from Idlib's Saraqib after being driven out by moderate forces.

People check the damage in a street following an air strike by pro-regime forces in the town Maarrat Misrin in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province, on February 25, 2020.
People check the damage in a street following an air strike by pro-regime forces in the town Maarrat Misrin in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province, on February 25, 2020. (AP)

Reports from Syria's Idlib on Wednesday said battles are raging on two fronts for control of the country's last opposition-held province.

Moderate forces took the village of al Nayrab in Saraqib – a gateway into the embattled Idlib province ­– after an operation that started at midday against Iranian-backed terrorist groups, regime forces, and Russian warplanes.

Regime forces withdrew from the village with many casualties.

But on the other front, regime forces claimed to have captured some villages and strategic hills deep inside the heavily fortified areas once held by the opposition. It said the villages captured include former strongholds such as Kafranbel, Has, Kfar Sajneh and al Dar al Kabira.

An air strike on the opposition-held village of Arnabeh on Wednesday morning killed three civilians according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitoring group, and Idlib-based activist Hadi Abdullah.

On Tuesday, at least 16 civilians, including children were killed after regime forces targeted a school.

The new push by the Russian-backed Syrian regime could worsen the humanitarian crisis that has displaced nearly a million people and left more than 300 civilians dead since the beginning of December.

The Syrian Response Coordination Group, a relief group operating in the country's northwest, said that regime forces had struck numerous civilian targets in the past 24 hours, including eight schools, three medical centers, and several settlements where people displaced by the fighting had taken shelter.

The group's statement condemned the “silence by the international community” calling it an “open invitation” for Russian-backed regime forces to continue its assault.

US slams Assad's brutal aggression

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday said the Syrian regime will not be able to achieve a military victory and the recent offensive in Idlib only heightens the risks of conflict with Turkey.

"Assad regime’s brutal new aggressions cynically backed by Moscow and Tehran imperils now more than 3 million displaced persons including as we have tragically seen young people," Pompeo told reporters at a news conference.

"As we have said many times before, the regime will not be able to obtain military victory. The regime’s offensive only heightens the risk of conflict with our NATO ally Turkey," he said.

Pompeo said the solution in Syria is a "permanent ceasefire and UN-led negotiations under UN Security Council resolution 2254” and the Trump administration is "working together with Turkey on seeing what we can do together."

Turkey, Russia meet for talks

The violence came as a Russian delegation arrived in Turkey later Wednesday to resume talks aimed at easing tensions in the northwestern Idlib region. 

Turkey and Russia back rival groups in the Syrian conflict and over the past weeks Ankara sent thousands of Turkish troops to Idlib. 

Clashes between Turkish and regime troops so far this month have left 15 Turkish soldiers and a contractor dead.

Medical situation worsening

A doctor in Idlib said in a video released late Tuesday that the medical conditions are deteriorating in Idlib.

"The medical situation is getting worse and worse," said the doctor who identified himself as Ihsan Eidi. The video was released by a charity organisation known as Islamic Relief Worldwide.

The doctor said more than 50 hospitals and health centers have gone out of service over the past nine months as conditions worsened.

"We had little equipment and most of it was damaged by the bombs, unfortunately," the doctor said. He added that with the flow of displaced people in the cold weather, tent settlements have become overcrowded, which makes disease spread more easily.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies