The Syrian government forces have recaptured the strategically important city of Maaret al-Numan in the northwest of the country. "Our armed forces have managed to eradicate terrorism in many villages and towns in the past few days," said an army spokesman. Eleven civilians were killed in airstrikes Wednesday, activists said.
According to the Syrian Human Rights Observatory, air strikes by government forces and the Russian army killed ten civilians in the village of Kfar Lata, north of Maaret al-Numan, and another civilian died near the city of Sarakeb.
According to the observatory, government forces are on the rise on Sarakeb, which, like Maaret al-Numan, is located at an important traffic junction of the M5 motorway, which connects the capital Damascus with the second largest Syrian city, Aleppo. During the course of the day, the government forces had taken over five other villages in southern Idlib, the observatory said. Government troops have regained control of more than 30 towns and villages in the region since Friday.
No more rebels in the city
Maaret al-Numan was one of the first cities in Idlib province in 2011 where residents rebelled against the government in Damascus. A year later, it fell into the hands of the opponents of the Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad.
After taking Maaret al-Numan, soldiers searched the city for booby traps, the center said. Accordingly, there are no longer any rebels in the city – everyone is dead or has withdrawn. The Syrian army said it would continue the struggle to "clean up the entire Syrian area from terrorism".
Assad's forces, supported by the Russian Air Force, have been attacking the south of the Idlib province since December. The state-run Syrian news agency Sana announced on Wednesday that government troops in the area of al-Rashidin in western Idlib are now superior to jihadist fighters.
Erdogan criticizes Russia
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the Russian government on Wednesday of failing to adhere to the bilateral ceasefire agreements in northwest Syria. If the Russian air strikes in Idlib do not stop, Turkey will do "whatever is necessary," the Turkish head of state emphasized in the newspaper Hürriyet,
Moscow is supporting government troops in the Syria conflict, and Ankara is supporting the rebels fighting against the Syrian government. However, the two countries had worked together to resolve the conflict in recent years.
The UN called on everyone involved to stop fighting. "The parties to the conflict and those who have an impact on them must stop fighting," said UN emergency aid coordinator Mark Lowcock on Wednesday at the UN Security Council in New York. "If current hostilities do not end, there will be an even greater humanitarian catastrophe," he warned.
Government troops now control around 70 percent of Syria. More than half of Idlib province and small parts of neighboring Aleppo and Latakia provinces are still under the control of the jihadist militia Hajat Tahrir al-Sham and other Islamist militias. Assad is determined to regain control of the region.