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Syrian regime captures key village in rebel-held Idlib

  • 11 Aug 2019

The capture of Habeet opens up an approach to southern regions of Idlib, which is home to some three million people, many of them displaced by fighting in other parts of the country.

A motorbike burns after an air strike in this screen grab taken from a social media video said to be taken in Idlib, Syria on July 16, 2019. ( Reuters )

Syrian regime forces captured an important village in the northwestern province of Idlib on Sunday, drawing close to a major town in the last opposition and rebel stronghold in the country, regime media and opposition activists said.

The capture of Habeet opens up an approach to southern regions of Idlib, which is home to some three million people, many of them displaced by fighting in other parts of the country. 

Habeet is also close to the town of Khan Sheikhoun, which has been held by rebels since 2012, and to parts of the highway linking the capital, Damascus, with the northern city of Aleppo, Syria's largest.

Syrian regime forces have been trying to secure the M5 highway, which has been closed since 2012. 

Syrian regime have been attacking Idlib and a stretch of land around it since April 30. The three-month campaign of air strikes and shelling has killed more than 790 civilians and displaced some 400,000.

'The most important advance'

The regime-controlled Syrian Central Military Media said the Syrian regime forces captured the village after fierce fighting with Al Qaeda-linked militants.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition-linked war monitor, described the capture of Habeet as "the most important advance" by regime forces since April 30.
It said the overnight fighting left 18 insurgents and nine pro-regime gunmen dead.

Syrian troops have been pushing their way into Idlib and rebel-held northern parts of Hama province in recent weeks under the cover of intense air strikes and shelling.

In Damascus, meanwhile, Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad attended Eid Al Adha prayers in a mosque.

Regime news agency SANA showed Assad attending the Muslim prayers early Sunday at Afram Mosque along with top officials, including the prime minister and the country's grand mufti.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced in recent weeks and the United Nations and aid agencies have warned that an all-out assault on Idlib could turn the current humanitarian emergency into a catastrophe of proportions previously unseen.

The fighting is a violation of a deal which was reached by the battle's two main foreign brokers — Russia and Turkey — but was never implemented.

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