Syrian regime forces entered a key northwestern town on Sunday amid intense fighting with jihadists and their rebel allies which has left dozens of combatants dead, a war monitor said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported “fierce clashes” as it said regime ground troops penetrated Khan Sheikhun in Idlib province for the first time since they lost control of it in 2014.
The latest fighting, which broke out overnight Saturday to Sunday, has already killed at least 59 jihadists and allied rebels as well as 28 members of pro-regime forces, the Britain-based monitor said.
Pro-regime forces have been advancing over the past few days in a bid to encircle Khan Sheikhun from the north and west and to seize a key highway.
The road runs through Idlib, connecting government-held Damascus with the northern city of Aleppo, which the regime retook from rebels in December 2016 after a pulverising Russian-backed offensive.
On Sunday they retook the village of Tel al-Nar and nearby farmland northwest of Khan Sheikhun before closing in on the town, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.
They then advanced into the northwestern districts of the town amid “ferocious resistance” from jihadists and allied rebels, he said.
Jihadist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate, carried out several suicide bombings to slow the advance of regime troops, Abdel Rahman added.