Turkey-backed fighters recapture key town in Syria’s Idlib
February 27, 2020 - Turkey-backed Syrian opposition fighters have retaken the strategic town of Saraqib, a setback for the government’s Russian-backed military campaign in the last rebel stronghold in Idlib province.
The recapture of Saraqib cuts the highway linking the capital, Damascus, with the northern city of Aleppo days after the government reopened it for the first time since 2012. Officials had hailed the reopening of the highway, known as the M5, as a major victory in the nine-year Syrian conflict.
The government's military campaign to recapture Idlib has triggered a humanitarian catastrophe and the war’s largest single wave of displacement. According to the UN, almost 950,000 civilians have been displaced since early December, and more than 300 have been killed. Most have fled further north to safer areas near the Turkish border, overwhelming camps already crowded with refugees in cold winter weather.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitoring group, said the rebel fighters seized Saraqib after intense bombardment by Turkish troops. Turkey and Russia support opposite sides in Syria’s civil war, with Ankara backing the opposition and Moscow backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
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