Beirut: Attacks by two jihadist groups killed at least 22 Syrian government troops and militiamen in the northern province of Aleppo early on Saturday, a war monitor said. Thirty others were wounded in the assaults by Al-Qaeda’s former Syria branch, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), and its ally Hurras al-Deen, which remains affiliated to the global jihadist network, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The attacks in the southern and southwestern countryside of Aleppo province were launched shortly after midnight and triggered clashes that continued until dawn, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.
He said the fighting subsided after Russian aircraft struck jihadist positions in the area, prompting the fighters to pull back. Eight jihadists were killed, he added. Russia aircraft also carried out strikes in neighbouring Hama province early on Saturday, killing five civilians, the Observatory said. On Friday, Russian strikes killed 10 civilians in Idlib province, the hub of territory held by the jihadists of HTS in northwestern Syria. Russia and rebel-backer Turkey in September inked a buffer zone deal to avert a massive government offensive on the Idlib region, but the deal has never been implemented. The region of some three million people has come under increasing bombardment since HTS took full control of it in January.