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    Syrian army artillery soldiers in Idlib province in northwestern Syria

    Syrian Army Foils Militants’ Attack Near Idlib De-Escalation Zone – Source

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    DAMASCUS (Sputnik) – The Syrian army prevented on Wednesday another attempt by militants to break into its positions near the demilitarized zone in the Idlib province, destroying several tunnels dug by the militants, a Syrian military source told Sputnik.

    'Today, these terrorists have tried to infiltrate army positions in the area of Muhradah. This attempt was prevented, and some terrorists were wounded… Terrorists regularly dig tunnels as they're like rats, and where do they live? Under the ground. The army found these tunnels and blew them up completely', the source said.

    READ MORE: US Boosts Presence in NE Syria As Turkey Says No Daesh in Country

    He noted that on Monday, the militants fired improvised missiles at a thermal station near the city of Muhradah. According to the source, the militants were regularly digging tunnels near the settlements of Kafr Zita and Morek.

    The demilitarized zone in Idlib was established on September 17, when Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed on the issue.

    Militants in Idlib

    Commenting on the situation in the de-escalation zone, Russian Special Presidential Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev said Wednesday that Russia was ready to help in handling the terroristic threat in the region.

    'As you know, a considerable part of Nusra* is still in Idlib, around 15,000 fighters. We are counting on the armed groups of the moderate opposition to be able to handle the situation in this troubled region and bring order to it on their own. If necessary, we are ready to assist in different ways, including with the participation of the armed forces of the Syrian government', Lavrentyev said.

    READ MORE: Evidence Shows That White Helmets Is Branch of al-Nusra — Moscow

    The official also noted that the next prisoner exchange in Syria within Astana format framework may include 50 people or more, and is unlikely to happen this year.

    'I think a working group here is making arrangements for this agreement not to take as much time next time. Some 50 [prisoners] will be exchanged, maybe even more. I think it's unlikely to happen this year, but I think our working group will try to do everything as fast as possible', Lavrentyev said.

    The Russian presidential envoy added that the first exchange of captured militants for hostages previously held by illegal armed groups took place earlier in November.

    'The first [exchange] took place on [November] 24, 10 for 10… This is not a large number, 20 was planned but then 10 [were exchanged] at the last moment, nevertheless this is a good step forward', Lavrentyev said.

    Idlib became the stronghold of anti-government opposition forces, including jihadists, over the past year, with Damascus allowing thousands of militants and their families to evacuate to the area from Aleppo, the Damascus countryside, Da'ara and other areas in order to avoid bloodshed.

    Jabhat al-Nusra or Nusra Front, also known as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham/al-Qaeda in Syria, is a terrorist group banned in Russia

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    de-escalation zone, militants, Syrian Arab Army, Idlib, Syria
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