Syrian militants in counteroffensive in Idlib

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- Syrian pro-government forces reached a sprawling air base controlled by rebels since 2015 on Wednesday, the target of a wide-ranging offensive in the northwestern Idlib province.

Rebels said they had captured some 15 villages and seized 60 government fighters. "I also deeply anxious about civilians affected by the upsurge in violence in Idlib.", he said.

Russian Federation entered the civil war in 2015 to bolster government forces, helping them to secure a series of victories against the Islamic State group as well as mainstream rebels.

On Wednesday, 35 soldiers were killed at the airport, said the observatory, which relies on a network of sources on the ground in the war-torn country.

The government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media said troops were engaged in fierce fighting with al-Qaida-linked militants and other insurgents just outside Abu Zuhour.

Idlib province is the biggest chunk of Syria still held by rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad, with a population swollen by Syrians who have fled government advances in other parts of the country.

In a statement by the White Helmets civil defence agency, as reported by Anadolu news agency, around 161 civilians were killed in airstrikes over the last two weeks.

The push into Idlib province, the largest remaining territory held by rebels in Syria, is the deepest by the government since it lost much of the area three years ago.

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The International Rescue Committee said it had received hundreds of people newly displaced from the latest fighting in Idlib, many of them housed in makeshift tents.

The Observatory on Monday said 27 civilians were killed in the attack, including 14 children. The woman was so frightened, she initially left one of her children behind.

The IRC said almost two thirds of the displaced in Idlib are living in makeshift tents that are unable to withstand winter conditions while others live in abandoned or partially-build homes that have well water but no toilets.

Rebel fighters recaptured a number of villages in the countryside of Idlib and Hama from regime forces.

Turkey is anxious about the deployment of Syrian regime forces and their allies in the north of Idlib, where they have established bases, which they said are part of an agreement with Iran and Russian Federation to establish a de-escalation zone in the province. The Observatory's chief Rami Abdurrahman said 16 insurgents were killed in the fighting but didn't provide a figure for government casulaties.

Meanwhile, the United Nations official said he had detailed and open discussions with the Syrian government about the crisis and what more needs to be done to reduce the humanitarian suffering.

State media did not report any blasts in the area.

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