On Sunday, Syrian army troops and their allies established full control over Kfaridoun and Sabbaghiyah farms, which lie in an area between the towns of Madaya and Kafrsajna.
Earlier in the day, Syrian soldiers managed to regain control over Tal Kfar Idoun area, which is located west of a key highway that connects the capital Damascus with the strategic northern city of Aleppo.
Meanwhile, the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said there were “fierce clashes” between foreign-backed militants and pro-government forces one kilometer west of Khan Sheikhun, which serves as a major bastion of Takfiri terrorists.
The Britain-based war monitor said the latest fighting broke out overnight Saturday to Sunday, and has already killed two militants and 11 members of the pro-government forces.
The observatory added that Syrian forces managed to retake the village of Tel al-Nar and nearby farmland northwest of Khan Sheikhun on Sunday and were closing in on the highway.
The government troops’ advance towards Khan Sheikhun will make the situation more difficult for militants in their last remaining pocket of territory in the neighboring province of Hama, including the towns of Morek, Kafr Zeita and Latamneh.
Over the past few days, Syrian government forces and allied fighters have been advancing in a bid to encircle Khan Sheikhun from the north and the west and seize the highway. They are deployed about three kilometers from the road.
On August 5, the Syrian army declared in a statement the start of an offensive against foreign-sponsored militants in Idlib after those positioned in the de-escalation zone failed to honor a ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey and continued to target civilian neighborhoods.
“Even though the Syrian Arab Army declared a ceasefire in the de-escalation zone of Idlib on August 1, armed terrorist groups, backed by Turkey, refused to abide by the ceasefire and launched many attacks on civilians in surrounding areas,” SANA cited a statement released by the General Command of the Army and Armed Forces.
“The Turkish regime’s persistence in allowing its terrorist pawns in Idlib to carry out attacks proves that Ankara is maintaining its destructive approach and is ignoring its commitments as per the Sochi agreement. This has emboldened terrorists to fortify their positions, and led to the spread of the threat of terrorism across the Syrian territory,” the statement added, referring to the Russian city where the truce deal was agreed upon.
The Syrian military’s statement came a day after Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara would launch a military operation in a Kurdish-controlled area in northern Syria.
Under the Sochi agreement, all militants in the demilitarized zone that surrounds Idlib and also parts of the provinces of Aleppo and Hama were supposed to pull out heavy arms by October 17 last year, and Takfiri groups had to withdraw two days earlier.
The National Front for the Liberation of Syria is the main Turkish-backed militant alliance in Idlib region, but the Takfiri Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) terrorist group, which is a coalition of different factions of terror outfits largely composed of the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, holds a large part of the province and the zone.
The HTS, which is said to be in control of some 60 percent of Idlib, has yet to announce its stance on the buffer zone deal.