Fighting between Rebels, Regime Forces Intensifies in Northwestern Syria
Efforts by forces loyal to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to wrest back control of some of the last rebel-held territory in the civil-war-wracked country are meeting resistance, with an uptick in fighting in northwestern Idlib Province. Some reports say that pro-Assad forces have retaken rebel-held positions, while the rebels deny this and even say the government troops are suffering rising losses. Most of the rebels in the province belong to Tahrir al-Sham, once called the Nusra Front, an al-Qaida ally. Others are aligned with groups said to be backed by Turkey. A cease-fire agreement reached several weeks ago under the auspices of Russia and Turkey is being violated in many places in the province, with the fresh fighting worrying Ankara, already struggling to house some 3.5 million Syrian refugees who have fled since the civil wat broke out over eight years ago. Russia, however, appears to be supporting Assad’s drive to reclaim more territory, and rights organizations say an additional tens of thousands of local residents have been uprooted.