Jihadists from the Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham group are seeking to expand their control in the Syrian province of Idlib, launching an offensive on the outpost of the Turkish-supported armed opposition in the city of Maaret-Naaman, the Al Hadath TV reported on Tuesday.
According to the TV channel, Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham militants from other areas flock to the region.
Earlier, extremist forces established control over another outpost of the Syrian opposition, located in the town of Atarib west of Aleppo.
More than a thousand members of the radical Ahrar al-Sham and Nour al-Din al-Zenki Brigades groups had to leave this city together with their families. In all, Hay’at Tahrir AL-Shamhas established control over 20 settlements since January 1, including the town of Darat Izza.
According to Kurdish news agency Firat, terrorist forces are now approaching the northern Syrian town of Jindires bordering the region of Afrin, controlled by Turkish forces and their allies in the fragmented Syrian opposition.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based non-governmental organization, about 114 militants on both sides and eight civilians were killed since the ongoing infighting within the Syrian opposition broke out in late December.
On January 3, armed groups who joined the Turkish-supported National Front for the Liberation of Syria announced they were beginning a counter-offensive on Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham’s positions in the provinces of Aleppo and Idlib.
To date, they managed to liberate only two settlements near the strategically important Latakia-Idlib-Aleppo highway.
Currently, clashes are taking place near the town of Ariha some 14 km from the city of Idlib. Capturing it would allow Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham to cut traffic via the highway.
After clashes with Turkish-led Syrian opposition groups in October 2018, Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham refused to surrender heavy weaponry and withdraw its militants from the demilitarized zone to be created in the Idlib province and adjacent regions of Aleppo, Latakia and Hama.