Anti-government terrorists withdrew from a key area of northwestern Syria, as the Syrian army tightened noose on the foreign-backed militants.
Sources said militants fled the town of Khan Sheikun and the countryside to its south overnight and in the early hours of Tuesday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said militants withdrew from Khan Shaikhoun, one of militant-held Idlib province’s largest towns.
The move comes days after fierce fighting between the Syrian army and the terrorists.
For its part, Al-Qaeda-affiliated Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance, which was previously known as Nusra Front, said Tuesday in a statement it was “redeploying” and that its militants withdrew to the southern part of the town of Khan Sheikhoun from where they would continue the fight against Syrian army.
Other sources close to the insurgents reported that the Syrian army has tightened the siege on the foreign-backed militants, forcing them to flee the area in Khan Sheikhoun and the neighboring regions.
“Message to Turkey”
On the other hand, the London-based Syrian Observatory’s Chief Rami Abdel Rahman said the withdrawal means an important Turkish observation point in the nearby town of Morek is effectively surrounded by the Syrian army.
On Monday, a Turkish military convoy crossed the border into the Idlib region, sparking condemnation from Damascus as Ankara alleged air strikes had targeted its troops.
The convoy halted just north of Khan Sheikhun on Monday afternoon and remained there on Tuesday, after Syrian army took control of a section of the highway into the town.
Syrian newspaper Al-Watan said Monday morning’s strike targeted a militant vehicle scouting the road in front of the Turkish convoy.
“The Syrian army in its own way sent a clear message to the Turkish regime by forcing convoys sent by Ankara to help the terrorists in Khan Sheikhun to come to a halt,” it said.
It was a “clear warning against any Turkish attempt to resuscitate the terrorists,” the paper said.
After eight years of the deadly war in Syria, the Idlib region on the border with Turkey is the last major stronghold of foreign-backed militants.