Syrian rebels launch counteroffensive against regime in Idlib
Syrian rebels launched a counter-offensive on Thursday against regime forces in northwestern Syria, the armed opposition said, part of a campaign to retake areas of Idlib and Hama province recently captured from the opposition by the regime..
The rebel counter-offensive began on Thursday afternoon with a volley of rockets and missiles lobbed at rebel forces in a handful of villages recently captured by the regime in northern Hama and southern Idlib provinces.
One rebel group, Jaysh al-Izza said that its fighters had expelled regime forces from the village of Tal Malah in northern Hama province.
Rebel fighters also advanced in the village of Al-Jebeen after intense clashes.
The regime and its ally Russia responded with a wave of airstrikes, including dropping barrel bombs on villages nearby. The rebels burned tires to obstruct the vision of regime and Russian warplanes.
A rebel umbrella group, the National Liberation Front (NLF), confirmed the offensive, saying it aimed to repel government forces.
Human Rights Watch said the Syrian-Russian military alliance has used internationally banned indiscriminate weapons, such as barrel bombs and incendiary weapons, in populated areas in northwest Syria in recent weeks. More than 3 million people live in the rebel-held area, nearly half of them already displaced from earlier stages of the Syrian conflict
Regime forces and their ally Russia began a ground offensive in late April against areas under rebel control, despite a ceasefire guaranteed by Russia and Turkey signed in 2018. It is believed that the aim of the offensive is to capture strategic highways. The rebels have lost control of 18 villages as a result of regime attacks.
Also on Thursday, the Syrian Civil Defence released statistics regarding the casualties of the offensive. It said that 272 people were killed in May, including 67 children, while 785 had been injured including 199 children. It also counted 3013 airstrikes by the regime and Russia during the month.
More than 300,000 people are believed to have been displaced as a result of the regime’s offensive.
Most of Idlib province has been under rebel control since 2012. The Syrian conflict began in 2011, when the regime of President Bashar al-Assad responded to protests calling for freedom and reform with brutal suppression.
Idlib province is the last area standing in Bashar al-Assad's way as he seeks a final victory against the armed opposition after eight years of civil war. Besides Idlib, other parts of Syria in the northwest and northeast remain out of his control, held by Turkey-backed fighters or Kurdish-led forces backed by the United States.