Syrian government forces Friday regained areas it had lost the previous day in Idlib province, as state media accused Turkey of assisting the rebels in launching a counteroffensive in the northwest this week.
Militant factions justified their withdrawal decision by saying that a mass encirclement of rebel fighters in southwest Aleppo due to Syrian Army advances in eastern Idlib was highly possible and this made it strategically unfeasible or militarily wasteful to defend the Al-Hass region. Assad has defeated rebels in many parts of western Syria with critical help from Russian Federation and Iran.
Syrian state media, citing a foreign ministry source, said on Thursday that regime forces were fighting to "liberate from the terrorism of the Nusra Front and the other terrorist organisations that belong to it".
Recapturing the Abu Zuhour air base, which the rebels took in 2015, has been one of the main targets of a major government offensive into Idlib that began in late October.
Idlib province is nearly entirely held by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a jihadist outfit dominated by Al-Qaeda's former Syrian affiliate.
Syrian troops and allied forces absorbed the attack and regained control of some positions they had withdrawn from, it said.
Idlib's few rebel groups and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham have set aside their differences to fight President Bashar al-Assad's forces. "We have killed many".
It added that the rebels had used Turkish vehicles.
The area is part of a de-escalation zone agreement in the Kazakh capital Astana past year between Turkey, which supports rebel groups, and Assad allies Iran and Russian Federation.
"We are witnessing a clear intensification of Russia's military strategy, with systematic attacks on civilian facilities perpetrated with total disregard for worldwide law", warns Fadel Abdul Ghany, Chairperson of the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR).