Crackdown Amid Ceasefire: Syrian Army Pounds Al-Nusra in Idlib Province
17:42 21.03.2016(updated 17:55 21.03.2016)
A major Al-Nusra Front terrorist attack has been foiled by the Syrian Army and the country's National Defense Force in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, according to Sputnik's Arabic edition.
The Syrian Army and the country's National Defense Force (NDF) have managed to repulse a major attack launched by Al-Nusra Front terrorists on two villages located in northwestern Syria's Idlib province near the border with the province of Latakia, a source told Sputnik's Arabic edition.
The source said that in the early hours of Sunday, a large group of Al-Nusra Front terrorists unsuccessfully tried to enter the territory of the villages of Ain al-Bayda and Jabal Al Qalaa, which are controlled by the Syrian Army in Idlib; the army's counter-attack reportedly left dozens of the terrorists dead and wounded.
"The Syrian Army was also able to capture a number of armed terrorists with their vehicles and weapons after they were ambushed. Also, the army thwarted the terrorists' attempts to attack the village of al-Soda," the source said.
The counter-attack came as the Syrian Army and the NDF won back a whole array of strategic heights in Idlib, destroying the terrorists' strongholds located in the province's northern areas, according to the source.
Syria has been mired in a civil war since 2011, with forces loyal to the country's President Bashar Assad fighting a number of opposition factions and extremist groups, including Daesh and the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front, which have been blacklisted as terrorist organizations by many countries, including Russia.
In February 2015, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2268, endorsing a Russia-US agreement on the cessation of hostilities in Syria; the ceasefire came into force shortly thereafter, on February 27. However, Daesh (ISIL/ISIS) and the Al-Nusra Front are not included in the truce.
Between September 30, 2015 and March 14, 2016, the Syrian Army's anti-terror efforts were backed by an extensive Russian air campaign. During that period, more than fifty Russian warplanes, including Su-24M, Su-25 and Su-34 jets, executed precision airstrikes on Daesh and Al-Nusra targets in Syria at the behest of President Assad.
Last Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the Russian Aerospace Forces unit had fulfilled its mission in Syria and that its withdrawal would begin the following day.
Moscow will, however, maintain a military presence in Syria, although a deadline for a complete pullout has not yet been announced. Putin also indicated that Russian forces will remain at the port of Tartus and Hmeymim Airbase.
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