An opposition fighter fires a missile from a village near al-Tabanah during ongoing battles with government forces in Syria's Idlib province on January 11, 2018. AFP / OMAR HAJ KADOUR
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Syrian insurgent groups launched a counteroffensive Thursday against government forces advancing toward a major rebel-held air base in the country's northwest Idlib province, capturing several villages and taking prisoners, opposition groups said.Recapturing the air base has been a key government goal since late October and Syrian forces have captured some 160 villages since first launched the offensive.Lowcock, on his first mission to Syria since his appointment last year, called for agreements to allow the U.N. and other relief organizations to reach 2.5 million Syrians in need of aid on a regular basis.Attacks by Syrian and Russian forces on Eastern Ghouta damaged or destroyed four schools and killed eight children in late October and early November 2017, according to a new report by the New York-based Human Rights Watch.Government forces had largely beaten back the counteroffensive by militants in Idlib by evening Thursday, the Observatory reported.The Observatory confirmed insurgents have retaken several villages from government troops and said 11 pro-government fighters were captured.
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