Syrian government defends Idlib campaign, condemns France


Syrian government defends Idlib campaign, condemns France

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.

Rebels launched a counter-attack against Syrian government forces and their allies in Idlib province on Thursday, trying to roll back an advance that is fuelling tension with neighbouring Turkey.

The Syrian army, supported by Iran-backed militias and Russian air power, began an offensive in late October in Hama province.

Ankara's statement came amid reports from the Russian Defense Ministry of an attempted terrorist attack on Russian military facilities in Syria, announced on January 8.

Idlib province is nearly entirely controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a jihadist outfit dominated by Al-Qaeda's former Syrian affiliate.

Syrian troops and allied forces absorbed the attack and regained control of some positions they had withdrawn from, it said.

Activists said the Syrian government forces' offensive and advance in Idlib has united the rebel factions to confront it, which could undermine the armed insurgency in Syria as Idlib is the major gathering point and rebel bastion in Syria, following the defeat of the Islamic State (IS) late a year ago.

"With Allah's blessings we drew plans and prepared ourselves and are encircling them", said Abu al Naji, a commander from Tahrir al Sham. They have recaptured dozens of villages.

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.