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Jihadists kill 9 Syria regime fighters near Idlib: monitor Open in fullscreen

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Jihadists kill 9 Syria regime fighters near Idlib: monitor

Rebel Syrian fighter walking near Idlib province [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 November, 2018

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The al-Qaeda-linked Hurras al-Deen launched an attack on Friday against regime forces near a planned buffer zone around the country's last remaining rebel-held province.
Jihadists on Friday killed nine Syrian regime fighters near a planned buffer zone ringing the country's last remaining rebel-held province, a war monitor said. 

A September deal between regime ally Russia and rebel backer Turkey aimed to set up a de-militarised zone around the northwestern region of Idlib to protect it from a regime assault.

Idlib is home to around 3 million people, around half refugees who fled other parts of Syria following previous regime assaults.

A new offensive on Idlib would likely uproot 800,000 people, the UN warned, causing major problems for relief agencies, and sparking what it described as the "worst humanitarian crisis" of the 21st century.

But the buffer zone's implementation has been stalled since jihadists, who hold around 70 percent of the planned buffer area, failed to withdraw by mid-October.

Sporadic fighting has rocked the area since.

Early Friday, jihadist groups attacked regime forces in the northwest of Hama province near the planned buffer zone, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

"Nine regime fighters and five assailants were killed" in the attack, causing regime forces to respond with artillery fire, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.

The attackers included the al-Qaeda-linked Hurras al-Deen group, which has publicly rejected the Russian-Turkish deal, he said.

The lion's share of Idlib is held by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an alliance led by al-Qaeda's former Syrian affiliate.

Under the 17 September deal, all fighters in the zone were supposed to withdraw their heavy weapons and jihadists including HTS and Hurras al-Deen were supposed to leave.

The Syrian conflict began when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by President Bashar al-Assad, responded with military force to peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms during the Arab Spring wave of uprisings, triggering an armed rebellion fuelled by mass defections from the Syrian army.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the war, mostly by the regime and its powerful allies, and millions have been displaced both inside and outside of Syria.

The brutal tactics pursued mainly by the regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians have led to war crimes investigations.

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