Regime forces backed by Russian support continued to advance in the southern countryside of Idleb, edging closer to the Abu al-Dahour military air base as artillery fire and airstrikes from warplanes and helicopters displaced tens of thousands of civilians.
Since Dec. 25, heavy battles have continued between regime forces on the one side and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and rebel groups on the other, as the Assad regime stages a major assault to take control of the province’s southeastern countryside and secure an adjacent strategic route linking the city of Aleppo, the second biggest city in Syria, to the capital Damascus.
Regime forces have been able to encircle the town of Sunjar, one of the biggest towns of the southeast, which is now under siege and within gun range.
The regime is creeping toward the Abu al-Dahour air base and is now 8 km from the city and 10 km from its airport.
HTS took control of the Abu al-Dahour military air base in September 2015 after besieging it for about two years.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the regime has taken control of 60 villages and towns in the southeastern Idleb countryside since Dec. 25.
HTS held an emergency meeting of its military council with its commander Abou Mohamad al-Jolani, according to the group’s official account on Telegram on Sunday.
Regime helicopters and Russian warplanes have meanwhile intensified their bombardment on the towns of the Idleb countryside, forcing tens of thousands to flee toward rural towns and camps on the border with Turkey.
The regime’s mobilization toward Idleb follows the end of the last major battles against the Islamic State (ISIS) group in the province of Deir-ez-Zor on the border with Iraq.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.