Damascus/Xinhua/UNI: The Syrian government forces have advanced toward the city of Maarat al-Numan in Idlib province in northwestern Syria on Sunday amid intense battles and shelling, activists and local media reported.
The Syrian forces advanced east of Maarat al-Numan in the southern countryside of Idlib following battles with the rebels, including those involved with the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, said state news agency SANA.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported the progress made by the Syrian forces east of Maarat al-Numan and said the rebels tried to make up for their collapse east of the city by waging attacks on government positions elsewhere in southern Idlib.
For its side, the pro-government Al-Mayadeen TV said the Syrian Army is only one kilometer from Maarat al-Numan, a strategic city that overlooks the road connecting Hama province with Aleppo in the north through Idlib.
In Aleppo city, the rebels in the western countryside fired on a residential area in the city, causing a building to partially collapse, according to SANA.
A day earlier, the Syrian Army and the Syrian Foreign Ministry said in separate statements that the Syrian Army will continue to eradicate terrorism from Idlib and Aleppo, both contain the last major rebel strongholds in the country.
On Jan. 15, the pro-government al-Watan newspaper said that the Syrian army is bracing to launch an assault to retake the road connecting Hama province with Aleppo, which passes through Idlib.
It said that the imminent military operation aims to secure the Hama-Aleppo road as part of an agreement reached in Russia's Sochi in 2018 that aims to secure the official road to Aleppo, which extends all the way south to the capital Damascus.
Since the Hama-Aleppo road is under rebel control, people have traveled to Aleppo through another extension of the road.
The army is now prioritizing the recapture of the entire road between Hama and Aleppo, which will enable the travel movement to return to its pre-war time from Damascus in the south to Aleppo in the north without rerouting to other roads.