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Syrian offensive captures key town in Idlib

31 January 2020
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Syrian T-72 tanks near Khan Tuman at the axis of advance south from Aleppo city on 29 January. Source: AFP via Getty Images

Syrian government troops have launched a two-pronged offensive along the M5 highway running through Idlib province, prompting Turkey to threaten intervention.

After capturing Maarat al-Numan, Idlib province's second-largest city, on 27-28 January, Syrian forces moved north to advance up the M5 towards the town of Saraqib. Meanwhile, a second column has been moving south down the same road from the city of Aleppo.

The US special envoy for Syria James Jeffrey told journalists on 30 January the offensive involved "massive movements of troops" that had been supported by 200 Russian and Syrian airstrikes over the previous three days, forcing 700,000 people to flee towards the Turkish border.

Speaking in Ankara on 31 January, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan warned that his country may launch a military operation into Idlib if the situation is not resolved immediately.

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