Syrian govt forces seize key highway in northwest, says monitor

Loyalist forces have since clawed back much of that lost territory — AFP pic
Loyalist forces have since clawed back much of that lost territory — AFP pic

BEIRUT, Feb 11 — Syrian government and allied forces today wrested the last segment of a key highway from rebels in the country’s northwest, a war monitor said.

The reconquest came on the back of a months-old offensive against the rebel enclave of Idlib and marked the first time since 2012 that the government controlled the entire M5 highway, which connects the capital Damascus with the major cities of Hama, Homs and Aleppo.

“The regime retook the area of Rashideen al-Rabea” in Aleppo province, Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Syrian Observator for Human Rights, told AFP.

“That means they control the entire M5 for the first time since 2012.”

The regime of President Bashar al-Assad lost huge swathes of the country to rebels as a result of a conflict that erupted following the repression of anti-government protests in 2011.

With the support of Russia, which sent its military in 2015, and of Iran, loyalist forces have since clawed back much of that lost territory.

The last pocket still controlled by rebels and jihadists covers part of Idlib and slivers of neighbouring provinces.

It is home to around three million people, many of whom were displaced by previous military operations elsewhere in the country.

According to the United Nations, close to 700,000 people have been forced to flee violence since the start of December, one of the biggest waves of displacement since the start of the war. — AFP

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