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Syrian Forces Take Aleppo Countryside, Airstrikes Underway
Vehicles carrying internally displaced persons and their belongings drive through Darat Izza, about 20 miles northwest of Aleppo, on February 17, 2020, as people flee advancing Syrian government forces. (Aaref Watad/AFP via Getty Images)

Syrian Forces Take Aleppo Countryside, Airstrikes Underway

The Syrian military said Monday that it had retaken control of dozens of towns in the countryside around Aleppo and would continue its operation to conquer the last rebel strongholds in the country, wiping out militant groups “wherever they are found.” For the first time in years, the main highway between Aleppo and Damascus was in the government’s hands. Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, supported by pro-Iranian militias and backed by heavy Russian airstrikes, have been fighting for the past few months to oust insurgents from the Aleppo countryside and Idlib province. Government airstrikes on Monday hit Darat Izza, about 20 miles northwest of Aleppo city, near the Turkish border, wounding several civilians and forcing two hospitals to close. Airstrikes were also reported in the south of Idlib province. The government’s campaign has pushed hundreds of thousands of civilians in the region out of their homes, from which they have fled toward the Turkish border. Turkey and Russia, which back opposing sides in the conflict, began a new round of talks in Moscow on Monday. Turkey wants a ceasefire while Russia is determined to help Assad prosecute the war until the rebels are defeated. According to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the anti-Assad rebels have continued to attack Russian bases and Syrian positions, and “it is not possible to leave this unanswered.”

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