Fighting kills 26 in Syria’s northwest: monitor

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Clashes between Syrian regime forces and militants Monday killed more than 26 fighters in the country’s northwest, which has seen an escalation in shelling and air strikes, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Eleven pro-government fighters were among those killed in fierce fighting in the northern countryside of Hama province, the war monitor said.

Fifteen militants, including members of al-Qaeda’s former Syrian branch, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), and its ally the Turkistan Islamic Party, were also killed, the monitor said.

The fighting came as regime forces advanced on two villages and a strategic hilltop in the region, it said.

State news agency SANA said Syrian troops launched “intensive operations,” targeting supply lines and areas where armed groups operate in northern Hama and neighboring Idlib.

The region held by HTS has faced intensifying bombardment in the past month, prompting a new wave of displacement.

On Monday, four civilians were killed in shelling and air strikes on Idlib and neighboring areas by the Syrian government and its ally Russia said the Observatory. An AFP photographer in Idlib saw several houses completely destroyed by recent attacks.

One man who lost his wife, his daughter-in-law, and his two grandchildren during shelling overnight prepared a pickup truck to relocate surviving members of his family. “I don’t know where I’m going,” he told AFP.

More than 140,000 civilians have been forced to flee attacks since February, Refugees International said on Monday.

“It is difficult to overstate the urgency of this looming humanitarian disaster if nothing is done to protect these people,” the non-governmental organization said in a statement.

Escalated attacks have hit schools and medical facilities, according to the UN.

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