Syria’s army and its allies have seized a strategic town in the northwestern province of Idlib, which contains the largest concentration of remaining militants in the Arab country.
The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a self-styled monitor, and the War Media outlet, which is run by Hezbollah, an ally of Damascus, both reported the recapture of al-Hubeid Town on Sunday.
The Observatory said the recapture seized a strategic town of al-Hubeid would renew the government’s access to the main highway linking the capital with the western province of Aleppo.
It said 38 al-Qaeda-linked militants were killed in the operation to retake the town on Saturday and 18 were killed on Sunday.
The victory marks a deeper access for the government to Idlib, where almost all militants in Syria have been moved to.
Al-Hubeit’s return to sovereign control also represents Syria’s most important gain in a now-three-month-old operation to cleanse Idlib of militant presence.
The operation began after multiple rounds of Moscow-mediated negotiations, which has seen the evacuation of civilians and the militants’ families from war zones.
Another milestone in the Idlib battle will be the recapture of the city of Khan Sheikhun. Observers say al-Hubeit’s seizure sets the stage for an easier operation for Khan Sheikhun’s liberation.