Despite severe casualties, regime forces backed by Russia take control of villages in Aleppo countryside
Hundreds of forces of the Syrian Bashar al-Assad regime have been neutralized amid operations over the last two weeks in Idlib, northwestern Syria.
Clashes have mounted for over a month between the Syrian regime, allied with Iran-backed foreign terrorist groups, against opposition and anti-regime armed groups in the east and south Idlib as well as the Aleppo countryside.
Opposition groups downed two helicopters, one in southern Idlib and another in western Aleppo, within the last week.
Meanwhile, hundreds of regime forces were neutralized along with their equipment including 12 vehicles, 24 tanks, eight anti-aircraft ramps, two light armored vehicles, four multi-barrel rocket launchers and two drones in the first two weeks of this month.
The opposition also seized some regime equipment, including eight tanks.
In the last 24-hours, the regime forces, backed by Russian air support, took control of a number of villages in Aleppo province.
The Bashar al-Assad regime and its allies have continued intensified air and land attacks on civilian settlements in the Idlib de-escalation zone.
In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.
But more than 1,800 civilians have been killed in attacks by the regime and Russian forces since, flouting a 2018 cease-fire and a new one that began Jan. 12.
More than 1.7 million Syrians have moved near the Turkish border due to intense attacks over the past year.
Turkey remains the country with most refugees in the world, hosting more than 3.7 million migrants since the start of the civil war in Syria in 2011.
Syrian opposition fighters on Sunday launched a counterattack on regime forces in west Aleppo, after dozens of villages and small towns were captured in a government offensive in the country’s last major rebel bastion.
Regime forces have made significant gains in the region in recent months, winning patches of territory held by rebels, focusing their latest operations in west Aleppo province.
Turkey-backed opposition fighters reportedly launched a counter-offensive to recapture at least two villages in west Aleppo on Saturday night, supported by “hundreds” of Turkish mortars and rockets.
The latest regime drive into Aleppo aims to bolster security in Syria’s second largest city, which Bashar al-Assad’s government retook completely at the end of 2016 but which is still targeted by rocket fire.
Last week, regime forces seized control of the strategic M5 highway which connects the capital Damascus to Aleppo, the country’s former economic hub, and is economically vital for the government.
According to the SOHR, Assad’s forces have attempted to consolidate a “security belt” around the M5.
The Russian-backed offensive has triggered the largest wave of displacement in Syria’s nine-year conflict, with 800,000 people fleeing since December, according to the United Nations.
More than 380,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict broke out nearly nine years ago with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.