Syrian rebels on Friday killed 10 pro-regime fighters in northern Syria. This is the deadliest attack since a truce was reached between the Syrian government and rebel groups more than two years ago.
It is yet to be determined whether the attack was carried out by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) or other rebel forces, reported the news agency AFP.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), an opposition faction targeted a bus carrying regime-backed Shia’a militiamen from Nubl and Al-Zahraa towns with a guided missile. “The attack took place on the frontline of Ainjara-Qabtan Al-Jabal in the western countryside of Aleppo, leaving at least ten regime-backed militiamen dead. The death toll is expected to rise as the attack left other militiamen injured, some seriously,” they reported.
SOHR activists in May documented the death of six members of “Jayish Al-Nasr” faction operating under the banner of the ‘National Liberation Front’ and the injury of five others, some seriously, after being targeted with a guided missile fired by regime forces on the frontline of Al-Qaherah village in Sahl Al-Ghab, north-west of Hama.
The regime of President Bashar al-Assad controlled barely a fifth of the national territory. But with Russian and Iranian support in 2015, Damascus regained much of the ground lost in the early stages of the conflict, which erupted in 2011.
The last pocket of armed opposition to the regime includes large swathes of Idlib province and parts of the neighbouring Aleppo, Hama and Latakia provinces. HTS is a rebel group headed by ex-members of Syria’s former Al-Qaeda franchise. It is the dominant group in the area, but other groups also operate with varying degrees of Turkish backing.
Turkey was keen to cement its influence in northern Syria and avert a new phase of fighting in the conflict that could have caused an unprecedented wave of refugees to flood its border.
Turkey is home to more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, facing rising public anger over the issue, has suggested that his government would encourage a million of them to return.