Syria’s Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an alliance of extremist opposition factions, seized more than 20 towns and villages from rival Turkey-backed forces in the northern province of Aleppo after four days of clashes that have killed more than 100 fighters, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed.
“HTS was able to take control of areas previously held by Nureddine al-Zinki in the west of the Aleppo countryside,” the British-based monitor said.
As reported by AFP, newly HTS-acquired areas lie in the northeast of Syria's last major Turkey-backed anti-regime bastion, which includes a large part of Idlib province as well as adjacent parts of Aleppo and Hama provinces.
The clashes broke out after HTS, which is led by Syria's former Al-Qaeda affiliate, on Monday accused Nureddine al-Zinki of killing five of its fighters.
Fighting flared in the northern province of Aleppo before spilling over into the neighbouring provinces of Idlib and Hama in the following days. Two HTS fighters and 14 rival combatants were killed in the fighting on Friday January 3rd, the Observatory reported.
On the same day, airstrikes by regime ally Russia hit the west of Aleppo province and killed two civilians in the town of Darat Izza, the observatory added. The air raids were the first of a kind to the west of Aleppo province since a deal between Moscow and Ankara to stave off a massive regime offensive on the wider Idlib region was brokered in September, 2018.