RT films inside liberated town of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria’s Idlib province (VIDEO)
The town, as well as several nearby settlements, were liberated by the Syrian Arab Army last week, following a major push against militants entrenched in the northern part of Hama province and the southern outskirts of Idlib, the last major militant stronghold in the war-torn country.
While militants abandoned the town largely without fighting, fleeing potential encirclement by government troops, the years-long conflict has taken a heavy toll on both its people and its walls.
Local residents told RT Arabic that the fleeing militants were forcing civilians to leave with them, heading deeper into Idlib, threatening them with the use of force. The family of Muhammad, a 20-year-old local resident, were lucky as they managed to hide from the militants and stay in their hometown.
“The militants have destroyed our lives, our homeland, stole our future. We, the youth, wanted to study, but the militants prohibited that. They’ve imposed their own programs, their religious rules,” Muhammad said. “They’ve been talking about religion and Islam, yet [they] themselves knew nothing about it.”
The militants also prevented civilians from leaving the combat zone and entering government-controlled areas, according to the locals. Still, some managed to flee the recent fighting, while others were refugees for years.
“We were in Hama for seven years, forced to leave Khan Sheikhoun because of terrorism and sabotage, [the terrorists] forced us to leave and took our house. Hopefully all of Syria will be back,” Ferial Kinj told Ruptly.
Khan Sheikhoun, located at a strategically important crossroads, has been under militant rule since 2014, when the government lost control of the town. It became internationally renowned back in 2017, when it witnessed a chemical weapons incident, which was quickly blamed on Damascus by the militants, the US and its allies. Days afterwards, Washington launched a major cruise missile strike on Syrian government troops.
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