Fighting in northwest Syria kill scores of fighters

Syrian state media and an opposition war monitor say Syrian government forces and insurgents have fought fierce battles that left dozens dead in the country's northwest as troops tried to regain control of two villages that they lost earlier this month

BEIRUT -- Syrian government forces and insurgents fought fierce battles that left dozens dead in the country's northwest Friday as troops tried to regain control of two villages they lost earlier this month, state media and an opposition war monitor said.

SANA said the aim of the bombing is to destroy fortifications built by insurgents, many of them members of the al-Qaida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, or HTS. It said the strikes were mostly near the villages of Jubayn and Tel Milh adding that they inflicted many casualties among the insurgents.

The violence has forced an estimated 330,000 people to flee their homes since late April, moving toward the Turkish border, according to the United Nations. Several health facilities were targeted in the violence.

More than 2,000 people including 532 civilians have been killed on both sides since the offensive began on April 30, according to the Observatory.

On Thursday, Turkey's Defense Ministry said a Turkish soldier was killed in an artillery strike by Syrian government forces in northwestern Idlib province.

The strike hit a Turkish observation post. The attack marked the first Turkish death in a Syrian government attack since it launched an offensive to retake Idlib two months ago.

The ministry said late Thursday that three soldiers were wounded in the attack and have been evacuated from Syria. It said Ankara warned Turkey would respond with "heaviest punishment."

Turkish troops man 12 observation posts in Idlib as part of a de-escalation agreement struck with Russia and Iran in September 2017.

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