Syrian army seizes strategic city

Syrian Army moving earlier in the week (Picture: AFP)

Damascus:  The Syrian army has seized the strategically important city of Saraqeb located in the northwestern province of Idlib as it continues its offensive on the oppositions last stronghold in the country.

"Syrian Arab Army units completed operations of dismantling explosives and land mines left behind by terrorists in Saraqeb city after expelling terrorism from it," Efe news reported citing the state-run SANA news agency as saying on Saturday.

Saraqeb was the last large city dominated by the opposition and Islamist rebels on the M5 highway connecting Syria's most important two cities; Damascus and Aleppo.

Turkey, which supports the opposition, had four of 12 observation points in a demilitarized zone established in 2018 in Saraqeb penned with Russia, which backs the regime, to ease tension in the region.

The fate of Turkish troops manning these points was not clear.

Ankara has sent reinforcement to Idlib, bringing the number of vehicles that have entered this week to over 1,000, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights which has a wide network of collaborators on the ground.

After seizing Saraqeb, the Syrian army continued its offensive toward the east, where it regained control over five towns located in the administrative limits of the Aleppo province to control the M5, a Syrian military source told Efe news.

Syrian troops have not advanced toward western Saraqeb, where the Idlib city is located.

No bombardment has been reported for over a day, following a week of intense attacks.

Troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have been keen intent on controlling the M5 highways to facilitate communication and cut off supplies to rebels.

Idlib and western Aleppo are mainly under the control of former Al Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which has been ruled a terrorist group by Damascus and Moscow.

Since last December, 590,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in Idlib and Aleppo, according to the UN.

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