Long-expected battle for Idlib may have begun

Backed by massive Russian air power, the Syrian regime has launched what may be the start of a long-feared offensive to retake opposition-held northern Hama and Idlib, in which an estimated 3 million inhabitants and civilians displaced from other areas are trapped.

A man looks at an opening from a makeshift bomb shelter in an underground cave in Idlib, Syria, Sept. 3, 2018.REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

GAZIANTEP, Turkey — Syrian regime and allied forces took the key town of Kfar Nabudah from opposition fighters in southern Idlib on May 8 after gaining, losing and then regaining a village and a strategic hill in northern Hama two days before.

The taking of the town, known as a gateway to the rest of southern Idlib, seems to have marked the start of a major ground offensive.

Opposition fighters from the formerly al-Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and the rival coalition formed in early 2018 from several Free Syrian Army (FSA) factions — the — have been working alongside one another to repel regime attacks.

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