Syrian President Bashar al-Assad renewed a drive to retake rebel-held territory in Syria’s northwest of Idlib provincemon Monday.
Assad’s forces had since Friday wrestled control of 22 towns and had cut through a strategic highway in Idlib that links the capital Damascus to Aleppo in northern Syria.
The Syrian army had encircled and was close to capturing Maarat al-Numan, an urban center 33 km south of Idlib city. This would mark a significant advance for Assad’s drive to take back all of Syria.
Moscow and Damascus say they are fighting militants that have stepped up attacks on civilians in Aleppo.
The renewed fighting comes despite a Jan. 12 ceasefire deal between Turkey and Russia, which back opposing sides of the conflict.