More than 100 combatants have been killed over the past 48 hours in fighting between Syrian forces and rebels in the country’s besieged northwest, a war monitor has said.
Ongoing clashes and aerial bombardment centred on the village of Tal Meleh in the north of Hama province, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Thursday.
According to the Observatory, which has a network of sources on the ground in Syria, 89 opposition fighters were dead with 41 fatalities among government forces.
Al Jazeera was not able to independently verify the figures in the war zone.
On Wednesday, Syria’s state news agency SANA reported “army operations” had been launched against the former wing of al-Qaeda – Hay’et Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) – in Tal Meleh and the surrounding countryside that it dominates.
“Bodies of the terrorists and their vehicles scattered in the surroundings of al-Jalmah village due to the strikes of the army,” SANA reported, without specifying a death toll.
Tal Meleh sits near the southwestern edge of Hama’s neighbouring Idlib province, which has come under increasing bombardment by Syrian government forces and warplanes from Russia, an ally of President Bashar al-Assad.
Northwest Syria, home to some three million people, is the last remaining bastion of anti-government rebels after eight years of war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people.
Russia and Turkey, long-time backers of rebel groups operating in the country, brokered an agreement intended to stave off an all-out government-led assault on Idlib in September, but that deal was never fully implemented as opposition fighters refused to withdraw from the planned buffer zone.
Earlier this week, United Nations officials alleged Syrian and Russian forces might be deliberately targeting hospitals and schools in the area in a bid to “terrorise” civilians.
UN aid chief Mark Lowcock told the Security Council that since Syrian troops began pushing into Idlib on April 30, an estimated 330,000 people have been forced to flee their homes and more than 230 civilians have died.
Lowcock also said the World Health Organization had confirmed 26 incidents affecting healthcare facilities in the province.
Millions of Syrians have been displaced since the war started in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests.
The conflict has become a geopolitical battleground with Russia, the United States, Iran, Turkey and several Gulf nations all involved and backing various forces.