Iraq News

Damascus to let civilians flee opposition-held Idlib

Damascus said Thursday (August 22nd) it is opening a corridor for civilians to leave the opposition-held north-western region of Idlib, where government bombardment has killed hundreds since late April, AFP reported.

The announcement came a day after government forces recaptured the strategic Idlib province town of Khan Sheikhun from Tahrir al-Sham extremists and allied opposition fighters.

Damascus has opened such corridors out of other opposition bastions in the past as a prelude to retaking them either by force or through negotiated surrenders.

"The Syrian government announces the opening of a humanitarian corridor in Souran in the northern countryside of Hama province," state news agency SANA quoted a foreign ministry source as saying.

The corridor will be used to evacuate "civilians who want to leave areas controlled by terrorists in northern Hama and the southern countryside of Idlib", it added.

The government said it would provide shelter, food and medical care for civilians who choose to leave the region.

Civilians are often fearful about taking up government offers of refuge or safe passage for fear of arrest or conscription into the government's depleted armed forces.

Meanwhile, Wednesday's advance saw government forces cut off a pocket of territory stretching from the south of Idlib province into neighbouring Hama, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The pocket includes the town of Morek and the nearby areas of Kafr Zita and al-Latamna.

The planned corridor will allow their remaining residents to escape into government-held territory, the Observatory said.

But most civilians had already fled before the pocket was cut off, Observatory head Rami Abdul Rahman told AFP

The encirclement of Morek has raised the stakes between the Russian-backed government and Turkey, which has troops manning an observation post in the town.

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