Fighting raged in northwest Syria on Thursday with clashes between regime forces and jihadist-led fighters killing 130 combatants in two days, a war monitor said. The Idlib region, home to some three million people, is supposed to be protected by a months-old international truce deal, but it has come under increased bombardment by the regime and its Russian ally since late April.
On the southwestern edges of the jihadist-run enclave, bombardment and fierce fighting since Tuesday have killed 89 anti-regime fighters and left 41 dead on the government side, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. This included at least 14 anti-regime fighters and 21 pro-government forces killed early Thursday, it said.
The fighting has centred around the village of Tal Meleh in the north of Hama province, according to the Britain-based monitoring group. "The clashes are ongoing," with both regime and Russian war planes pounding the area, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said. On Wednesday, 17 civilians were killed in regime bombardment on several parts of the rebel region, he said.
Russia and rebel backer Turkey brokered an agreement intended to stave off an all-out regime assault on Idlib in September, but that deal was never fully implemented as jihadists refused to withdraw from the planned buffer zone.
The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham group, led by ex-members of Al-Qaeda's former Syria affiliate, extended its control over the region, which spans most of Idlib province as well as slivers of the adjacent provinces of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo.
The Syrian government and Russia have upped their bombardment of the region since late April, killing more than 400 civilians, according to the Observatory. Syria's war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions at home and abroad since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests.