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Syria to let civilians flee rebel-held Idlib via humanitarian corridor

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Syria announced Thursday that it is to open a gateway for civilians to escape the opposition-held region of Idlib, where government bombardments have killed hundreds of people in recent months.

"The Syrian government announces the opening of a humanitarian corridor in Souran in the northern countryside of Hama province," state news agency SANA quoted a Foreign Ministry source as saying.

Idlib's main insurgent group on Tuesday pulled out of the strategic town of Khan Sheikhoun, which had been held by rebels since 2012, as government forces advanced amid intense bombardments and airstrikes.

The gateway will be used to evacuate "civilians who want to leave areas controlled by terrorists in northern Hama and the southern countryside of Idlib," SANA quoted the source as saying.

It is not the first time Damascus, with Russian military support, has created routes out of rebel bastions before retaking the area either through forceful means or via negotiated surrenders.

The Idlib region, which lies in the northwest of Syria, close to the Turkish border, is the last major stronghold of opposition to the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

The region has been controlled since the beginning of the year by the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance, which is led by Islamic fighters from Syria's former al-Qaida affiliate.

jsi/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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