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POST TIME: 21 August, 2019 00:00 00 AM
Syrian rebels ‘forced from key stronghold’
BBC, London

Syrian rebels ‘forced from key stronghold’

Members of the Syrian Civil Defence carry an injured man after removing him from under the rubble of a building that collapsed during reported air strikes by pro-regime forces in the village of Beinin in the northern Idlib province yesterday. AFP Photo

Syrian opposition forces have withdrawn from the strategic town of Khan Sheikhoun, deep in the last rebel-held province.

Government forces, backed by Russia, closed in on the town in recent weeks, five years after rebels took over. Rebels told the BBC that fighters pulled out of the town on Tuesday.

But an official statement from the main jihadist group in Idlib province, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), characterised it as a “redeployment” of forces. The fate of the town seemed to be in flux on Tuesday, as the UK-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported it had fallen to government forces.

But then HTS issued a statement saying it had redeployed its fighters in the town after coming under a major bombardment. Khan Sheikhoun has long been a flashpoint in Syria’s civil war.

It was the site of a chemical weapons attack in 2017, which UN experts blamed on Syria. The incident prompted military strikes by the United States.