Turkish-backed rebels recapture key Syrian town: report

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A Syrian rebel-fighter from The National Liberation Front (NLF) takes position in a trench armed with an automatic rifle on a hill in the area of Al-Eis in the southwest of Aleppo province, overlooking regime-held territory several kilometres (miles) away, on October 7, 2018. Turkish-backed rebels said today they expected to finish withdrawing heavy weapons from a planned buffer zone in northwestern Syria within days under a deal to stave off a regime attack. / AFP PHOTO / OMAR HAJ KADOUR

Opposition fighters backed by Turkey have recaptured a town in northwestern Syria after clashes with government-allied fighters, the Al Jazeera news network reported.

Turkish state media and a war monitor reported on Monday that rebels seized the town of Nairab, considered a gateway to the strategic town of Saraqeb, which lies close to a junction between two major highways.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the clashes killed dozens of pro-government fighters and Syrian troops as well as opposition fighters on Monday.

Earlier on Monday the Observatory reported that Russian air attacks killed five civilians in the Jabal al-Zawiya area in the south of Saraqeb. Russia’s defense ministry denied the Observatory report.

Syrian state news agency SANA said “units of the Syrian army continued to progress in the south of Idlib” province after seizing 10 towns and villages south of the M4 highway.

Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said the government’s aim was to wrest back control of stretches of the M4, which links the cities of Aleppo and Latakia.

That would require operations against the towns of Ariha and Jisr al-Shughour, both along the M4.

This month 16 Turkish military personnel have been killed by Syrian forces in northwestern Syria, and several Turkish military observation posts — which Ankara thought were safe under deals with Russia, a key Damascus ally — ended up being surrounded in areas retaken by government forces.

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