Syria government forces chip away at rebel enclave
Beirut: Government forces made new gains in northwestern Syria on Friday, further chipping away at the country's last major rebel pocket, a war monitor said.
Syrian government and allied forces, which have kept up a blistering assault on the Idlib region since December, are now securing areas along a key highway they seized from jihadists and allied rebels this week.
On Friday, they pushed west of the M5 motorway which connects Syria's four largest cities and is economically vital for the government, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
In an attempt to consolidate a "security belt" around the road, they seized a key base on Friday that they had lost to rebels in 2012, the Britain-based monitor said.
Located 12 kilometres (seven miles) west of Aleppo city, Base 46 was the site of a brutal confrontation between government forces and rebels in the early phase of Syria's civil war.
The Observatory estimates that more than 150 Damascus loyalists lost their lives during the rebel takeover of the base at the end of 2012.
Its recapture marks a symbolic win for the government which has reduced the rebel-held pocket to just over half of Idlib province, as well as slivers of neighbouring Aleppo and Latakia.
The Russian-backed offensive has triggered the largest wave of displacement in the nine-year conflict, with 800,000 people fleeing since December, according to the United Nations. - AFP