Khan Sheikhoun: Syria rebels pull out of key town after five years

Smoke billows from a town in the distance in this wide-angle landscape shotSymbol copyright
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Smoke rises from Khan Sheikhoun on this picture taken Monday

Syrian opposition forces have withdrawn from the strategic the town of Khan Sheikhoun, deep within the ultimate rebel-held province.

Govt forces, subsidized via Russia, closed in in town in contemporary weeks, 5 years after rebels took over.

Rebels informed the BBC that combatants pulled out of the city on Tuesday.

However an reliable observation from the primary jihadist staff in Idlib province, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), characterized it as a “redeployment” of forces.

The destiny of the city appeared to be in flux on Tuesday, because the UK-based tracking staff the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported it had fallen to govt forces.

However then HTS issued a observation pronouncing it had redeployed its combatants within the the town after coming underneath a big bombardment.

Khan Sheikhoun has lengthy been a flashpoint in Syria’s civil battle.

It was once the website of a chemical guns assault in 2017, which UN mavens blamed on Syria. The incident triggered army moves via america.

The war in Syria has been happening for greater than 8 years.

Khan Sheikhoun is a strategically vital battleground in Idlib province. It lies alongside the Damascus-Aleppo highway, which connects the 2 biggest towns and runs thru rebel-held territory.

A very powerful insurgent provide direction

By way of Sebastian Usher, BBC Arab affairs analyst

On this case, the primary achieve for President Assad is that Khan Sheikhoun lies alongside the M5 highway, which is the primary financial artery thru Syria from north to south, linking Damascus, Homs and Aleppo. Securing the dual carriageway in its entirety is a big purpose of the federal government offensive.

By way of the similar token, taking Khan Sheikhoun may just assist bring to an end the most important insurgent provide direction. Shedding Khan Sheikhoun would even be a blow to the status of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an alliance of jihadist and insurgent factions, which has all however taken over Idlib.

  • Why does the struggle for Idlib subject?
  • Who is in keep watch over of Idlib?

Its primary part is Al Qaeda’s former associate in Syria, the Nusra Entrance. One of the best combating pressure at the insurgent facet, it stays designated a terrorist organisation via a number of international locations, together with america – regardless of reasonably moderating its stance in recent times.

It is also confronted opposition in Idlib itself via different insurgent factions and civilian teams. However the estimated 3 million other folks in Idlib are not likely to greet the autumn of Khan Sheikhoun to with the rest however trepidation.

The city has been the topic of a big offensive via the forces of President Bashar al-Assad in contemporary months. Masses of civilians were killed, and loads of hundreds extra pushed from their houses.

Idlib province – together with portions of northern Hama and western Aleppo – make up the ultimate strongholds of the armed opposition.

Remaining yr, a deal struck between Russia and Turkey – who again opposing aspects within the civil battle – was once meant to create a “buffer zone” to offer protection to civilians and prohibit a big govt offensive.

Alternatively, govt forces have escalated their assaults in contemporary months, just about encircling Khan Sheikhoun and the encircling territory.

On Monday, a Turkish convoy was once hit via a central authority air strike – with Syria alleging the cars had been on their method to give a boost to Khan Sheikhoun.

Russia joined the war in 2015 to enhance President Bashar al-Assad. Since then, the tide of battle has grew to become firmly in his favour.

His govt has reclaimed huge quantities of territory and restored its keep watch over in a lot of the rustic – however is accused of battle crimes via UN investigators and human rights teams.”

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