Damascus yesterday said it is opening a corridor for civilians to leave the rebel-held northwestern region of Idlib, where government bombardment has killed hundreds since late April, state media said.
The announcement came a day after government forces captured the key Idlib province town of Khan Sheikhun from jihadists and allied rebels.
Damascus has opened such corridors out of other rebel bastions in the past as a prelude to retaking them either by force or through negotiated surrenders.
The Idlib region, which sits on the Turkish border, is now the last major stronghold of opposition to the Russia-backed government of President Bashar al-Assad.
The Idlib region has been ruled since January by the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance, which is led by jihadists from Syria’s former al-Qaeda affiliate. The government refers to all rebel groups in Idlib as “terrorists”.
The region of some three million people was supposed to be protected by a proposed buffer zone agreed by Moscow and rebel backer Ankara last September.
But the jihadists of HTS failed to pull back from the zone as agreed and in April government and Russian forces resumed intense bombardment of the region. Around 890 civilians have been killed, according to the Britain-based Observatory.
More than 400,000 more have led their homes, the United Nations says.