Militants, including Chinese Islamists, launch offensive on Syrian regime troops
The Syrian government-affiliated Central Military Media outlet says troops and allied militias have pushed back against the offensive, which started on Tuesday in northeastern rural Hama province, on the border with Idlib, killing a number of insurgents.
Rami Abdurrahman, the head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, says airstrikes pummeled the area of the fighting. He says the push is the widest so far by al-Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and its allies, including Chinese fighters of the Turkistan Islamic Party.
Abdurrrahman says thousands of insurgents are involved in the push, which seeks to reach the government-controlled city of Hama.
The northern Hama area is adjacent to the rebel-held province of Idlib, which is largely controlled by HTS.
Ceasefires in western Syria -- for years the main theatre of the Syrian civil war -- have helped the Syrian army and its allies advance against Islamic State in the east, where government forces are battling the group at Deir az-Zour.
Last week, Russia, Iran and Turkey agreed at talks in Kazakhstan to post observers on the edge of “a de-escalation zone” in Idlib region. HTS denounced ceasefire talks in Kazakhstan, and vowed to keep fighting.