Russian-backed Syrian government forces have retaken control of the al-Jabin and Tel Melah villages in Syria’s northwestern Hama province after fighting with rebel fighters, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Monday. The rebels withdrew following a heavy bombardment. Government forces have been waging an offensive in the region with the help of Russia since April. Northwestern Syria, mainly Idlib Province, is the last major rebel stronghold against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies. Assad has vowed to take back “every inch” of Syria. More than 400 civilians have been confirmed killed in the escalation of violence in northwestern Syria over the past three months and more than 440,000 have been displaced, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said last week. However, the Observatory says that some 700 civilians in Idlib have been killed during Syrian or Russian attacks during this period, while rebel attacks against state-held areas have killed 53. Some 1,500 combatants on both sides have been killed.