DAMASCUS (Dispatches) – Russian air strikes reportedly killed at least 100 militants from a Turkey-backed militant group in northwest Syria on Monday, as Turkish officials fear the government, backed by Russia, is preparing to overrun Idlib.
A high-ranking commander in Failaq al-Sham told Middle East Eye that more than 100 militants were killed and 150 were wounded after Russia targeted the faction’s training camp in Jabal Duwayli area in Idlib province.
But the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the Russian attack had killed 78 militants.
The so-called National Liberation Front (NLF), a coalition of Turkey-backed militants, confirmed to AFP that Russian strikes had targeted one of its facilities but did not give an exact death toll.
Saif Raad, the director of the media office for Failaq al-Sham and the NLF, refused to verify the number of militants killed because the number was unclear but said the camp targeted was in the "border area with Turkey” and affiliated to so-called Free Syrian Army factions.
"Reconnaissance planes have not left the sky and are monitoring the whole region,” he said.
Last week, Turkey withdrew from one of its largest outposts in northwestern Syria which had been encircled for the past year by Syrian government forces.
The outpost in Morek had been Turkey’s largest in Hama province, most of which is now under Syrian government control.
After a string of military victories backed by Russia, the Syrian government has regained control of around 70 percent of the country, the Observatory says.
On Sunday, UN envoy to Syria Geir Pedersen visited Damascus and met Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.
Pedersen afterwards said the meeting "touched upon all issues related to Security Council resolution 2254” for a political solution to the conflict.
"It’s my hope that meetings we have had today and meetings we will continue to have could be the beginning of something new,” he said.
The UN envoy said he would then hold talks with members of the political opposition.
"Hopefully we can see if it’s possible to find more common ground on how to move this process forward,” he added.
The Syrian foreign minister said says only Syrian people have the exclusive right to decide the future of their country.
Touching on the work of the Committee of Discussing the Constitution for Syria, both sides underlined the importance of the success of its work which requires the adherence to the agreed rules of procedures, the report added.
Muallem stressed that all the process of formation and work of the committee in all of its stages is led and owned solely by the Syrian nation and Syrians, therefore, have the exclusive right in deciding the future of their country.