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The New Arab Staff

Clashes continue in Syria despite Russian foreign minister saying conflict 'ended'

Rebels fired rockets at regime positions [AFP Archive Image]

Date of publication: 22 September, 2020

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Clashes continued in the Syrian province of Idlib on Monday night despite Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying that the conflict between the regime and the opposition had ‘ended’.

Clashes took place in Idlib province in Syria between regime forces and rebels from the National Liberation Front (NLF) on Monday night, one day after Russia launched its heaviest airstrikes against the opposition province since March.

NLF rebels launched mortar and rocket strikes at regime forces in the towns of Saraqeb and Kafranbel in retaliation for regime strikes on the rebel-held area of Jabal Al-Zawiya in southern Idlib.

An NLF source told The New Arab’s Arabic-language service that regime troops had been killed and injured in the rebel strikes, without giving numbers of casualties.

Read also: Syria Insight - Cautious hope for change with constitution talks

Russian planes flew over the area, while a new convoy of Turkish military vehicles entered Idlib province. Turkey, which backs the Syrian rebels, currently has over 60 observation posts and positions in Idlib.

The entry of the vehicles came despite a recent Russian demand that Turkey reduce its military presence in Syria.

Following a bloody regime and Russian campaign against Idlib province - which displaced over a million people in 2019 and early 2020 - Turkey and Russia reached a ceasefire deal in March, although the truce is frequently violated by all sides.

On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Al-Arabiya TV that military conflict between the Syrian regime and opposition had "ended".

"There are only two hotspots,” he said, "the first being Idlib, whose territory is controlled by Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham".

"The second hotspot is the eastern bank of the Euphrates, where the illegally stationed American forces joined the separatist forces, and is irresponsibly playing with the Kurds."

He added that joint Russian-Turkish patrols of the strategic M4 highway in Idlib, which had recently been suspended due to differences between the two sides, would resume when the situation "calmed down", referring to militant attacks on the convoys.

Idlib is one of the last areas of Syria controlled by anti-Assad rebels, with the hardline Islamist group Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) currently the largest and strongest group in the area.

Much of eastern Syria is controlled by the Kurdish-led, US supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who generally avoid confrontation with the Assad regime.

However, the southern Syrian province of Daraa also remains unstable, despite a 2018 deal which allowed the Assad regime to take control of the area from rebels.

On Monday, one regime official was wounded and another narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in the province.

On Saturday a pro-regime militia bombarded areas of Daraa city, in retaliation for the killing of one of its fighters.

Daraa sees frequent anti-Assad demonstrations, as well as assassination attempts against former rebels and regime officials.

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