The United Nations called the situation of civilians displaced by the fighting in Idlib “dire.” AFP / OMAR HAJ KADOUR
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Rapid advances by the Syrian army into one of the rebels' largest remaining strongholds, Idlib province, have brought it closer to a key insurgent-held military airport and displaced tens of thousands of people struggling to find shelter in winter weather. Supported by Iran-backed militias and Russian air power, President Bashar Assad's forces have taken territory in northeastern Hama and southern Idlib provinces since beginning an offensive in late October. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Friday the Syrian army and its allies had taken around 84 villages since Oct. 22, including at least 14 in the past 24 hours.The Syrian army lost Idlib province, which borders Turkey, to insurgents when the provincial capital fell to insurgents in 2015 .A Syrian military source said the Nusra Front and its allies are the target of the military operation in northeast Hama and southeast Idlib provinces.Idlib is part of Russian-engineered "de-escalation zones" meant to reduce fighting in western Syria.
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