Syrian regime forces capture strategic town, press Idlib bombardment
The Syrian regime and Russia continued their airstrikes in northern Syria on Wednesday as Syrian opposition media conceded the loss of the strategic town of Kafr Nabudah in northern Hama province.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that nine regime soldiers and 18 opposition fighters were killed in the battle for the town.
Regime forces carried out intense aerial bombardment of Kafr Nabudah and the neighbouring town of Habit before regime forces captured Kafr Nabudah. Kafr Nabudah is an important gateway between northern Hama province and Idlib province. It was captured by the Syrian opposition in 2011 and the regime made several failed attempts to recapture it from the rebels in the past eight years, notably in 2015.
Fighters from the formerly al-Qaeda affiliated Hayaat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), who were present in Kafr Nabudeh along with rebels from Free Syrian Army affiliated groups, put up little resistance to the regime attack this time, according to the New Arab’s affiliate Syria TV.
Syria TV reported that there was little coordination between HTS and the Free Syrian Army groups, who had recently been fighting each other, and that resistance to the regime advance was disorganized.
Sporadic clashes were continuing on the western outskirts of the town Wednesday evening. The Free Syrian Army announced that it had destroyed a regime tank in the nearby village of Sakhr.
The fall of Kafr Naboudeh is the latest stage of a week-long regime offensive against opposition-held Idlib and northern Hama province. The aim of the offensive appears to be to capture an important highway in the area. Tens of thousands of people have been forced to flee from northern Hama province with the UN warning of a "grave humanitarian crisis".
Russian and regime bombing has deliberately targeted health facilities and civilian infrastructure, resulting in the destruction of 12 hospitals since April 29. More than 60 civilians were killed yesterday as a result of the bombing. The New Arab’s correspondent reported that at least 10 more were killed today.
Refugees from the area have been taking shelter in olive groves in northern Idlib province. Camps for internally displaced people are full and unable to absorb the new wave of refugees, according to activists.
Fatima al-Masri, an elderly woman who had fled from Kafr Naboudeh to Atmeh on the Syrian-Turkish border with her gradchildren told the news agency Agence-France Presse, "We ran from the bombardment and the barrel bombs, the planes were firing down so nothing would remain alive -- not a tree, person or sheep."
Another refugee, Issam Derwish, said "There’s no aid, nothing. We’re just sitting here under the trees in the rain and the cold."
The regime offensive, in which Russia is taking part, comes despite the September 2018 Sochi agreement, which established a ceasefire in Hama and Idlib provinces and was guaranteed by Russia, Turkey, and Iran.
More than 500,000 people have been killed and millions displaced in Syria since 2011, when protests against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad were brutally suppressed. Regime bombing and shelling of civilian areas is responsible for most of the casualties.