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Violence rages in Syria’s truce zone

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Fighting is raging between Syrian government forces and rebels in a de-escalation zone where a truce should be in place, state media and activists reported on Saturday.

On Thursday, jihadist groups led by an al-Qaeda-linked alliance and Turkish-backed rebels, launched a wide-scale attack on government forces in the northern countryside of Hama in central Syria, which is part of a demilitarised zone declared in September.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, reported that rebels have made territorial advances over the past two days, prompting government forces and allied Russians to step up an air campaign.

“Syrian forces and jihadist insurgents were clashing the edges of rural Hama as the government and Russians unleashed a series of airstrikes against rebel areas in the province, as well as Idlib in north-western Syria,’’ the watchdog added.

Syria’s state news agency SANA said government forces had repelled the rebel attack in the countryside of Hama,  and inflicted unspecified casualties on them.

“One civilian was killed while three others injured in a rocket attack by rebels on the government-controlled town of Shezar in Hama,’’ SANA and the observatory reported.

In late April, forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, supported by Russian airpower, initiated a massive offensive against rebels in Hama and Idlib, the last major opposition stronghold in the country.

According to the observatory, the escalation has displaced thousands of people and killed no fewer than 357 civilians.

In September, Russia reached a deal with Turkey, a supporter of some rebel groups, to establish a demilitarised buffer zone in the Idlib enclave. (dpa/NAN)

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