Syrian state media says Turkey helped rebel attack

France anxious by Syrian army offensive in Idlib, wants Astana deal respected

Syrian state media on Friday cited field commanders as saying Turkey helped anti-government rebels launch a counterattack against the Syrian army and its allies in the northwest this week, underlining recent regional tensions over the fighting. Syrian human rights monitors warn of mounting atrocities in Syria's designated de-escalation zones, with schools, hospitals and rescue centres in Idlib and Eastern Ghouta confronting systematic targeting by Syrian regime and Russian warplanes.

Russia's Defence Ministry had asked the Turkish military on Wednesday to tighten control over armed groups in Idlib after two groups of drones attacked Russian bases on January 6.

Syrian troops and allied forces absorbed the attack and regained control of some positions they had withdrawn from, it said.

"The operation is to hit the belly of the regime deep into liberated territories and to encircle their advancing forces", said Abdul Hakim al Rahamon, a senior official in Jaish al Nasr, an FSA faction taking part.

Director of the Extremism and Counterterrorism Programme at the Middle East Institute, Charles Lister tweeted yesterday that major factions including Ahrar Al-Shaam, Nour Al-Din Al-Zinki and the Free Idlib Army were recipients of the weapons, but not the largest opposition conglomerate and former Al-Qaeda affiliate, Hayaat Tahrir Al-Shaam.

Syrian tribes form 5,000 strong army to clear regions from PKK  PYD

The airport, which straddles the border between the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo, has been under the control of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham since September 2015.

It added that the rebels had used Turkish vehicles.

In May past year, Russia, Iran and Turkey signed an agreement to set up de-escalation centres in Syria.

Ankara is concerned that wider fighting in the province could bring tens of thousands of Syrians fleeing from the battlefields on its borders far beyond the numbers now fleeing.

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