Two Turkish troopers have been killed and two others wounded in an air strike in Syria‘s northwestern province of Idlib as Turkey-backed Syrian rebels regained a key city throughout heavy preventing.
Hours after the seizure of Saraqeb, Syrian authorities forces launched a significant counterattack.
The newest casualties introduced the variety of Turkish safety personnel killed through the Russian-backed Syrian authorities offensive in Idlib this month to 19.
Syrian authorities forces make advances forward of talks
Turkey-backed Syrian rebels mentioned on Thursday they recaptured the strategic city – the primary vital reverse for the Syrian military operation that has made swift good points.
From inside Saraqeb, activist Taher al-Omar mentioned the city was now underneath opposition management. He posted a video with a fighter saying the federal government forces “ran away like rats”.
Three weeks in the past, opposition fighters misplaced the important thing northwestern city on the junction of two primary highways following speedy advances by Syrian forces of President Bashar al-Assad of their bid to retake Idlib.
“The city of Saraqeb has been liberated completely from Assad’s gangs,” Naji al-Mustafa, a spokesman for a Turkey-backed coalition of insurgent factions, the National Liberation Front, mentioned in a press release.
Syria’s state information company SANA acknowledged there have been “fierce clashes” between the military and “terrorist groups on the Saraqeb front”.
‘Pounding insurgent positions’
Al Jazeera’s Hashem Alhelbarra, reporting from Hatay, Turkey, mentioned it remained to be seen whether or not the opposition fighters may maintain the city.
“The Syrian army and the Russian military are now mounting a counteroffensive, pounding rebel positions and trying to hold their advance. It will be extremely difficult for the rebels to continue their control of Saraqeb against the backdrop of air strikes by Russian and Syrian forces,” he mentioned.
Damascus, backed by Russian air strikes and Iranian armed teams, launched the offensive to take again the final insurgent bastion of Idlib.
Nearly a million folks have been pressured to flee their properties since December within the largest displacement for the reason that civil battle in Syria broke out almost 9 years in the past.
Attacks on Turkish forces have prompted extreme tensions between the Syrian authorities’s key ally Russia and Turkey.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed once more on Wednesday to launch a significant army operation to push again Syrian forces if they didn’t retreat behind Turkish-held areas by the top of February.
Ibrahim al-Idlibi, an opposition determine in contact with fighters on the bottom, mentioned the seizure of the city was key for the rebels, who in current days misplaced a string of serious territory in southern Idlib province and the Jabal al-Zawiya highlands.
“The rebels this morning completed their control of Saraqeb after having advanced from several fronts. This eases the pressure after the Syrian army’s recent gains,” Idlibi mentioned.
Syria’s Idlib sees ghost cities as tons of of hundreds flee
Saraqeb hyperlinks the capital, Damascus, and its second-largest metropolis Aleppo, in addition to one other freeway west to the Mediterranean.
Taking again the M5 freeway from opposition fighters marked a giant achieve for al-Assad’s forces as they restored state management over the route between Syria’s two greatest cities for the primary time in years of battle.
Opening main highways to revive a shattered battle economic system has been a key aim of the marketing campaign.
“The opposition has now cut the highways and brought the regime to square one,” mentioned Syrian opposition defector, General Ahmad Rahhal.
The opposition advance on Saraqeb comes forward of an end-February deadline set by Erdogan for al-Assad’s forces to drag again from territory that Turkey says is a part of a buffer zone agreed with Russia.
UK-based battle monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Thursday that Russian-backed authorities forces had seized full management of southern Idlib province after a collection of advances towards the rebels.
Syrian forces have seized about 60 cities and villages in southern Idlib and the adjoining province of Hama during the last three days, the Syrian Observatory mentioned.
Russian diplomats and army officers had been set to carry a second spherical of negotiations with their Turkish counterparts on Thursday.
Ankara has despatched hundreds of troops and truckloads of apparatus into Syria’s northwest throughout its border to again the rebels and arrange new army outposts.
Turkey vows to drive Syrian forces again from Idlib
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and information companies