Syrian opposition dismisses regime’s claim of breakthrough at air base

JEDDAH: Syrian regime forces and their allies on Wednesday reached a sprawling air base controlled by opposition fighters since 2015, the target of a wide-ranging offensive in the northwestern Idlib province.
Recapturing Abu Zuhour base has been one of the main goals of the regime offensive launched in late October. Another is to secure the road linking the capital Damascus with the northern city of Aleppo, Syria’s largest.
Opposition spokesman Yahya Al-Aridi told Arab News: “Syrian freedom fighters have recaptured 17 areas said to have been taken by the invading forces under Russian air cover.”
He added: “The battles are like a tide. Confrontation is still ongoing. The regime and supporting militias are exaggerating.”
The opposition’s focus, unlike the regime’s, is waging a political battle in which the regime is “a definite loser,” Al-Aridi said.
The regime-controlled Syrian Central Military Media said troops were engaged in fierce fighting with Al-Qaeda-linked militants and other insurgents just outside Abu Zuhour.
The regime offensive has displaced tens of thousands of people, who have fled toward areas close to the border with Turkey.
The push into Idlib, the largest remaining territory held by opposition fighters, is the deepest by the regime since it lost much of the province three years ago.
Idlib is covered by a de-escalation agreement reached last year between Russia and Iran, which back the Syrian regime, and Turkey, which supports the opposition.
Al-Aridi said the only way for Moscow “to rescue the puppet regime and its supporting militias is by turning the whole area into a Grozny,” referring to Russia’s devastation of the Chechen capital in 1999-2000.
UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein expressed “grave concern” over the situation in Idlib, which is home to more than 2.6 million Syrians, including more than 1.1 million who fled fighting elsewhere in the country.


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