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Syrian troops reach outskirts of key rebel-held air base

AP  |  Beirut 

Syrian pro-forces reached the outskirts of a sprawling rebel-held air base today, the target of a wide-ranging offensive in the northwestern province.

Recapturing the air base, which the rebels took in 2015, has been one of the main goals of the offensive launched in late October. The operations also aim to secure the road linking the capital, Damascus, with the northern city of Aleppo, Syria's largest.

The government-controlled Syrian Central Media said troops are fighting al-Qaida-linked militants and other insurgents in different areas near It said troops approaching from the south are now 2 km away from the base.

The offensive has displaced tens of thousands of people, who have fled toward areas close to the Turkish border.

The push into province, which is mostly held by rebels, is the deepest by the since it lost much of the area three years ago.

The province is covered by a de-escalation agreement reached last year between and Iran, who back Bashar Assad, and Turkey, which supports the opposition.

The UN 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.

Zeid also condemned the upsurge in civilian casualties in the eastern suburbs of known as eastern Ghouta, stressing that all parties are obliged under international law to distinguish between lawful targets and civilians.

Today, more than two dozen people were killed in the bombardment of eastern Ghouta and rebel shelling of the capital itself.

"The suffering of the people of knows no end," Zeid said in a statement about eastern Ghouta, where nearly 400,000 people are living under siege.

"In Idlib, ground attacks and airstrikes have escalated as a rapidly-moving offensive gains momentum, jeopardizing the safety of hundreds of thousands of civilians," said Zeid.

He said that at least 85 civilians, including 21 women and 30 children, have been killed and at least 183 injured in eastern Ghouta since December 31.

The push toward came as the opposition's Britain-based for Human Rights reported several explosions in the coastal province of Latakia, an Assad stronghold. The Observatory said the blasts were the result of explosions in an arms depot east of Latakia.

did not report any blasts in the area.

In Moscow, the Russian urged its Turkish counterparts to tighten monitoring of the opposition in in the wake of a drone attack on Russian bases in the country.

said its forces repelled a series of drone attacks on Saturday, adding that out of the 13 drones involved, seven were shot down and six were forced to land without inflicting any damage.

The official daily said the ministry sent letters to the Turkish asking it to deploy observers to to ensure that rebels don't launch more attacks.

entered the civil war in 2015 to bolster forces, helping them to secure a series of victories against the Islamic State group as well as mainstream rebels.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, January 10 2018. 19:50 IST