Syrian army offensive in Idlib worries France, wants Astana deal respected

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Many Syrians living in rebel-held areas see Turkey's military intervention as a bulwark against a relentless bombing campaign by Syrian and Russian airforces they blame for killing and injuring hundreds of civilians in urban areas in recent months, away from the frontlines.

Government fighters have seized a string of villages in the southeast of the province since launching their offensive on December 25. The Syrian army, supported by Iran-backed militias and Russian air power, began an offensive in late October in Hama province.

"We are witnessing a clear intensification of Russia's military strategy, with systematic attacks on civilian facilities perpetrated with total disregard for global law", warns Fadel Abdul Ghany, Chairperson of the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR).

A day earlier, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor group said the Syrian army entered the southern part of Abu al-Duhur air base, adding that clashes were taking place inside the compound.

Since losing the airbase in 2015 following a two-year jihadist siege, the Syrian government has only had control of two villages in Idlib province: Fua and Kafraya.

Fighters from a coalition of Islamist forces stand on a portrait of Syrian President Bashar al Assad in Idlib
Fighters from a coalition of Islamist forces stand on a portrait of Syrian President Bashar al Assad in Idlib

Both the Syrian army and Moscow deny hitting civilian areas and say intensive raids only strike at militants.

Turkey has accused the Syrian government of using the presence of the Nusra Front, which now fights under the banner of the Tahrir al-Sham alliance, as an excuse to attack civilians and moderate opposition groups.

The ministry concluded by saying that France, whose people have suffered from the terrorism, should have its diplomats take clear stances regarding terrorism.

On Wednesday, 35 soldiers were killed at the airport, according to the Observatory.

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