Al-Qaida-led fighters on the offensive against Syrian troops

A Syrian monitoring group says insurgents led by an al-Qaida-linked group have launched a wide offensive against pro-government troops south of their stronghold in the western province of Idlib.

The Syrian government-affiliated Central Military Media outlet says troops and allied militias have pushed back against the offensive, which started on Tuesday in northeastern rural Hama province, on the border with Idlib, killing a number of insurgents.

Rami Abdurrahman, the head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, says airstrikes pummeled the area of the fighting. He says the push is the widest so far by al-Qaida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and its allies, including Chinese fighters of the Turkistan Islamic Party.

Abdurrrahman says thousands of insurgents are involved in the push, which seeks to reach the government-controlled city of Hama.