A Syrian army soldier holds a Syrian flag in Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib, Syria. File photo/Reuters
Syrian troops shelled the south of Idlib on Sunday, according to rescuers and residents in the rebel stronghold where a ceasefire had halted a fierce army offensive two weeks ago.
Artillery fire battered Maarat Al Numan town and nearby villages in the south Idlib countryside over the past two days, after warplanes struck there on Thursday.
A rebel official said fighters were on high alert and had reinforced the frontlines. "We are responding directly by targeting the positions from where the shells are fired," said Naji Mustafa of the National Liberation Front insurgent force.
Syria's northwest corner, including the Idlib region, is the last major chunk of territory still in rebel hands after more than eight years of war.
The ceasefire Damascus declared on Aug. 31 brought a lull in air strikes, after a five-month offensive which the United Nations says killed hundreds of people.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government and his key ally Moscow have said they were responding to attacks by militants formerly linked to al-Qaeda.
Turkish President Tayyib Erdogan will host the presidents of Russia and Iran on Monday. Talks will focus on securing an Idlib truce, asserting control over jihadists there, and preventing a fresh refugee wave into Turkey.
Turkish and Russian officials are reviewing deployment of their forces in the Syrian border region of Tel Rifaat, Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Sunday, a day after cross-border fire from the area killed one Turkish soldier.
Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and his Russian counterpart discussed by phone developments in Syria’s Idlib province and measures to reduce tension in the area, the Turkish Defence Ministry said on Tuesday.
Air strikes stopped in northwest Syria over the past 12 hours, rescuers said on Saturday, as Turkey-backed rebels arrived at the fronts to help fight the army and its Russian ally.
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