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Syria Battle Between Army, Jihadists Kills 10: Monitor

Five Syrian soldiers and five fighters of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham jihadist group were killed Thursday during clashes in the northern province of Aleppo, a war monitor said.

The group, headed by ex-members of Syria’s former Al-Qaeda franchise, controls along with other rebel factions about half of the northwestern province of Idlib and areas bordering the neighboring provinces of Aleppo, Hama, and Latakia.

The deadly clashes came “after members of the jihadist group infiltrated western Aleppo province,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor with a wide network of sources on the ground in the war-torn country.

It said 10 jihadists were wounded in the clashes as well as six Syrian soldiers.

Amjad, a media outlet affiliated with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, said the group’s members had attacked regime forces and that two of them “encircled enemy positions… killing and wounding numerous” soldiers.

The Observatory said Damascus had responded to the infiltration by “bombarding civilian positions in Atareb in the western Aleppo province, injuring 10 civilians.”

Syrian state media have not reported the violence.

Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP that since the end of 2022, the jihadists “have intensified operations against regime forces in Idlib… in the context of a rapprochement between Ankara and Damascus.”

The Idlib region is home to about three million people, around half of them displaced.

Ankara became a sworn enemy of Damascus when it began backing rebel efforts to topple the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at the start of the civil war, which began more than a decade ago.

But in late December, the defense ministers of Turkey and Syria held landmark negotiations in Moscow — the first such meeting since 2011.

The war has killed nearly half a million people, displaced almost half of Syria’s pre-war population, and drawn in foreign powers and jihadists.

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