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Opposition Leaves Key Town as Syrian Regime Troops Push In

Opposition Leaves Key Town as Syrian Regime Troops Push In

Tuesday, 20 August, 2019 - 12:00
FILE PHOTO: A general view shows Khan Sheikhoun in the southern countryside of Idlib March 16, 2015. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi/File Photo
Asharq Al-Awsat

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham pulled out of a key Syrian opposition town as regime forces advanced in the area on Tuesday amid airstrikes. As they withdrew, regime troops moved into northern and western neighborhoods of Khan Sheikhoun.

There was no immediate word from the regime, however, state TV said Syrian troops have expanded their presence in the Khan Sheikhoun area, without giving further details.

Syrian regime forces have been on the offensive in Idlib and northern parts of Hama province since April 30, forcing nearly half a million people to flee to safer areas further north. The fighting also killed more than 2,000 people, including hundreds of civilians, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

After the capture of Khan Sheikhoun, Syrian troops are likely now to move north toward Maaret al-Numan, another town on the highway that has been subjected to intense airstrikes over the past days.

Opposition activists also reported intense bombardment on the town of Jisr al-Shughour on the southwestern edge of Idlib on Tuesday.

Backed by Russian air power, Syrian government forces were able to enter parts of Khan Sheikhoun overnight, according to opposition activists.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other groups withdrew from Khan Sheikhoun as well as the towns and villages south of the town.

According to the Observatory, Khan Sheikhoun was home to about 1 million people, nearly 700,000 of them displaced by fighting in other parts of the country, before the government offensive began in April.

In recent days hundreds of civilians remained in the town according to AP.

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