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Syrian army set to retake key M5 highway — monitor

By AFP - Feb 09,2020 - Last updated at Feb 09,2020

BEIRUT — The Syrian army was set on Sunday to retake a key motorway connecting the capital Damascus to second city Aleppo following weeks of battles in the rebel-held Idlib region, a monitor said.

The M5 has been long in the sights of the Syrian government as it seeks to revive a moribund economy after nearly nine years of unrest.

It connects Aleppo, once Syria's economic hub, to Damascus and continues south to the Jordanian border, and recapturing it would allow traffic to resume between economically  vital parts of war-torn Syria.

After weeks of steady army advances in Syria's northwest, only a two-kilometre section of the M5 remains outside government control, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor.

The Syrian army on Sunday was closing in on the last sliver in the southwest of the Aleppo province neighbouring the Idlib region where they have been battling rebels and extremists, the monitor said.

Since December, the Syrian army has pressed a blistering assault against Idlib, Syria’s last major opposition bastion, retaking town after town from their opponents in the region.

On Saturday, the Syrian army captured the Idlib town of Saraqeb, located on a junction of the M5 highway, state media said.

Troops then pressed north along the motorway past Idlib’s provincial borders and linked up with a unit of Syrian soldiers in Aleppo province, according to the observatory and state agency SANA.

A little more than half of Idlib province remains in rebel hands, along with slivers of neighbouring Aleppo and Latakia provinces.


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