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Syria’s military hails advance against rebels in ‘record time’

Syrian army soldiers flash the victory sign as they patrol the village of Tallet Shweihna, in Aleppo province, Syria. (SANA via AP)

Syria’s military said its troops have regained control of territories in the north-west of the country “in record time”.

The announcement came hours after troops consolidated the government’s hold over the key Aleppo province, capturing more than 30 villages and hamlets in the western countryside in one day and securing the provincial capital that had for years remained within range of opposition fire.

Troops were removing barriers and roadblocks on Monday in villages and districts that were earlier controlled by Syrian rebels, state TV reported.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitoring group, reported clashes in Jabal Sheik Akeel, north-west of the city of Aleppo, the provincial capital.

The armed opposition was driven out of the city’s eastern quarters in late 2016, which they had controlled for years while battling government forces in charge in the western section.

However, rebel groups continued to target government forces from outside the city with mortar rounds. They also controlled large parts of western rural Aleppo, territories that linked them to Idlib province, the opposition’s last major stronghold.

The new advances, along with securing a key road that ran through rebel territory, are set to facilitate movement between northern and southern Syria, including the city of Aleppo, Syria’s commercial centre before the war.

The Shaam Network, an opposition media platform, said the advances cut the rebels’ supply line, effectively driving them out of the area.

The developments sparked late night celebrations in the city, with state media showing images of residents waving flags and dancing in the streets packed with vehicles.

Since December, Syrian troops have been on the offensive, biting bit by bit at the crowded rebel enclave, home to more than three million people. The offensive displaced more than 800,000 people.

General Ali Mayhoub, spokesman for the Syrian Armed Forces, said in a televised speech that Syrian troops were continuing their ground advances to “eradicate what is left of terrorist groups” in Syria, congratulating the soldiers for the swift advances in “record time”.

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