Syrian regime prepares for final assault on Idlib city as thousands of civilians flee
Syrian opposition military sources told The New Arab’s Arabic-language service that Russian planes were bombing the road between Idlib city and the village of Qumenas, six kilometres southeast of the city.
Regime forces on Tuesday advanced to within eight kilometres of opposition Idlib city, the provincial capital.
Regime forces on Tuesday also recaptured the village of Nayrab one day after opposition forces drove them out. The military sources said that regime forces were trying to advance from Nayrab to Qumenas amid heavy fighting with opposition forces.
Opposition forces are fighting back and destroyed a regime tank near Nayrab, according to sources.
Regime fighters are also trying to advance on the town of Sarmeen and besiege the city of Saraqeb in order to force the opposition to withdraw from the area. They captured over twenty villages on Tuesday in the push.
Turkish troops were patrolling Saraqeb on Tuesday in what appeared to be an attempt to forestall the regime advance. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that he "would not allow" Syrian regime troops to advance further in Idlib.
On Wednesday, Erdogan also warned the Syrian regime against attacking the Turkish observation posts in Idlib province.
"At the moment, two of our 12 observation posts are behind the regime's lines. We hope the regime will withdraw from our observation posts before the end of the month of February," he told a meeting of Turkey's governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Ankara.
"If the regime does not pull back, Turkey will be obliged to take matters into its own hands."
The UN said on Tuesday that over half a million people had been displaced in the past two months as a result of the regime assault and regime offensive.
The Syrian Committee for the Defence of Human Rights said that it had documented 229 civilian fatalities in Idlib province and neighbouring Aleppo province during the month of January.
A family of nine people were killed by a Russian airstrike on a minibus in rebel-held western Aleppo province on Monday.
The cities of Saraqeb and Ariha in Idlib province were virtually empty on Wednesday, with most of their inhabitants fleeing regime bombing to the Turkish border, which remains closed.
Regime forces bombed the two cities over 200 times on Tuesday, and Syrian Civil Defence sources told The New Arab’s Arabic-language service that the bombing had caused great material damage.
Two civilians, one of them a media activist, were trapped under the rubble, they said.