Syrian army soldiers gesture from a military vehicle in southern Idlib province, Syria in this handout released by SANA on March 5, 2020. (Reuters)

Nine Syrian soldiers killed in attack in northern Latakia province: Monitor

Nine Syrian soldiers and three extremist fighters were killed on Friday, a war monitor said, in the second significant attack on government positions in northwest Syria in a week.

Fighters of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) group, which dominates Syria’s last main opposition bastion, “infiltrated a Syrian army position… in northern Latakia province,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, who heads the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Another 12 soldiers and two HTS fighters were among those wounded in the assault, said the British-based Observatory, which has a wide network of sources inside Syria.

HTS, which is led by the former Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, controls swathes of the northwestern Idlib province, as well as parts of the adjacent provinces of Aleppo, Hama and Latakia.

On August 26, fighters affiliated with the extremists killed at least 11 soldiers in northwestern Syria when they detonated explosives placed in tunnels dug underneath army positions, before attacking them.

The ambush involving extremists from the Ansar al-Tawhid group and the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) took place in the south of Idlib province, the Observatory said at the time.

Since 2020, a ceasefire deal brokered by Damascus ally Moscow and opposition-backer Turkey has largely held in Syria’s northwest, despite periodic clashes.

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