Syria: Idlib insurgents pull out of key rebel town | News | DW | 20.08.2019
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Syria: Idlib insurgents pull out of key rebel town

Jihadists and allied rebels have withdrawn from the last major rebel-held bastion in Syria. Government troops have expanded their presence in the area, according to Syrian state TV.

Idlib's main insurgent group on Tuesday pulled out of the strategic town of Khan Sheikhoun — which had been held by rebels since 2012 — as government forces advanced amid intense bombardment and airstrikes, a militant group and opposition activists said.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, al-Qaida's former Syria affiliate, said in a statement that its fighters carried out "a re-deployment," withdrawing to areas south of Khan Sheikhoun.

As the rebels withdrew, government forces moved into the town's northern and western neighborhoods.

Syria's state broadcaster said government troops expanded their presence in the area, without giving further details.

"The victories that were achieved show the determination of the people and the army to strike terrorists, until all parts of Syria are liberated," Syrian President Bashar Assad said, according to comments released by his office cited by the Associated Press news agency (AP).

Read more: Syria's Idlib caught between hell and a hard place

All roads leading out of the area are either controlled by government forces or within range of their guns, observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Khan Sheikhun lies on the highway connecting Damascus to Syria's second city Aleppo, which has long been a key government objective. The town was hit by a suspected chemical weapons attack in 2017, which killed dozens of civilians.

Infografik Karte Streitkräfte im Idlib-Region Syrien EN

kw/kl (AP, AFP)

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