Syrian government captures strategic town from rebels
The Syrian government, embarked on the capturing as it pushes into the biggest remaining rebel territory under a massive bombardment.
Syria’s army, backed by Russian air power, launched ground operations against the southern flank of the rebel zone consisting of Idlib and parts of adjacent provinces.
The area is nominally protected by a Russian-Turkish deal agreed in 2018 to avert a major new battle.
Qalaat al-Madiq was the rebel area closest to the Russian Hmeimim airbase at Latakia, which insurgents have previously targeted with rocket fire.
It was also the entrance point into rebel territory for many insurgents and civilians who were evacuated from territory captured by the army under surrender deals negotiated with the government over recent years.
Local residents said Syrian government forces had captured Qalaat al-Madiq and two nearby villages, Tal Hawash and al-Karkat.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitoring group said rebels had withdrawn there after being nearly encircled by the army.
The fighting has pushed 150,000 civilians from their homes, raising concerns of a new humanitarian crisis in northwest Syria.