Regime Forces Control Strategic Town in Idlib’s Southern Countryside
In their first ground advance inside Idlib province where a military offensive started more than three months ago, regime forces backed by Russian warplanes seized on Sunday a strategic town.
"Regime forces seized the town of al-Hobeit in Idlib's southern countryside at dawn," said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, adding it was the first in southern Idlib to be taken by the regime since the start of its operation in April.
The Observatory said the capture of al-Hobeit, one of several strategic targets for advancing pro-government forces, came after another night of deadly fighting.
According to the Britain-based monitor's tally, 70 combatants were killed on Saturday, more than 45 of them pro-regime forces.
Al-Watan newspaper, which is close to Damascus, reported on Sunday that the Syrian forces managed to establish control over al-Hobeit and damaged the equipment of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (Nusra Front).
The Observatory said that the government’s new advance allows its forces to gain access to the largest city in the countryside of southern Idlib, Khan Sheikhoun.
Idlib province is part of a deal reached on September 2018, between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to set up a demilitarized zone along the contact line between the armed opposition and the government forces.
On Saturday, the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Opposing Sides in Syria said it registered militant movement near the Idlib de-escalation zone.
“About 120 Hayat Tahrir al-Sham militants, three armored vehicles and four pickup trucks with heavy machine guns are moving from the area close to the inhabited community of Hish,” the center’s head, Major General Alexei Bakin, told reporters.
He added that the Ajnad al-Kavkaz extremist group has dispatched about 200 militants, five armored vehicles, ten pickup trucks with heavy machine guns and two mine-studded trucks from the inhabited community of Kafr Sajna to the contact line.