In their large-scale advance on Thursday night, the troops captured the small town of Madaya and immediately secured it in order to prevent the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terrorists from reentering it.
The next target after Madaya was the hilltop town of Tal al-Arjahi, which was briefly contested, but later ended with terrorists fully retreating back toward Khan Shaykhun.
Syrian army forces inch closer to key militant base in IdlibSyrian government forces and their allies continue to regain control over regions in the northwestern province of Idlib, inching closer to a major militant bastion there.
The Syrian army has now put its troops at the northwestern flank of Khan Shaykhun, marking the farthest advance north that the army has made in the Idlib Governorate.
The government troops are working to surround Khan Shaykhun from its western and eastern axes, but the progress of the battle in the east is slow in comparison to the west.
Last Sunday, Syrian fighter jets carried out a string of airstrikes against the positions of foreign-sponsored Takfiri militants in the southern part of Idlib, pounding militant bases in the towns of Khan Shaykhun, al-Tamanah, Hass, Madaya, Kafrsajna, Rakaya Sijneh, and Hazarin as well as Hish.
By Thursday, the ground forces had gained control of five villages to the northwest of Khan Shaykhun.
As the advances continued, Syrian air defense intercepted and destroyed a missile coming from northern Lebanon over the western-central governorate of Hama, state media said.
Quoting an unnamed military source, Syria’s official SANA news agency reported that the “hostile” missile was shot down at 23:06 local time (20:06 GMT) on Thursday over the city of Masyaf before reaching its designated target.
The Israeli regime has acknowledged repeatedly striking positions inside Syria in recent years, and some of such attacks have been carried out from Lebanese airspace.
Such aggressive moves are usually viewed as attempts to prop up terrorist groups suffering defeats at the hands of Syrian government forces.
Syria air defense destroys ‘enemy missile’ over western citySyrian air defense has intercepted and destroyed a hostile missile coming from northern Lebanon over the city of Masyaf.
‘Turkey comes to terrorists’ help’
In reaction to the massive offensive, a Turkey-backed militant group has reportedly sent reinforcements to the frontlines of Khan Shaykhun.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Thursday that the militant group had launched a counterattack on the eastern pincer at the village of Sukeik, and that dozens had been killed in the fighting.
The so-called National Army and National Liberation Front – two terrorist groups that are supported by Turkey – have joined forces to oppose the offensive. The National Army will send more of its fighters to the frontlines to confront the government units, its spokesman said on Thursday.
“It was decided to start sending troops from the National Army starting tomorrow,” the group’s spokesman Youssef Hamoud said.
Top Saudi ringleader killed in Khan Shaykhun
Meanwhile, there are unconfirmed reports that a Saudi ringleader of terrorists in Syria has been killed in the Syrian offensive near Khan Shaykhun.
An informed source told Iraq’s Buratha news that Abdullah al-Muhaysini, a notorious Saudi member of Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, has been most probably killed in southern Idlib.
Al-Muhaysini was a cleric known for having served as a religious judge in the so-called Army of Conquest.
Khan Shaykhun lies on a key highway coveted by government troops. The road runs through Idlib, connecting the capital Damascus with the strategic northern city of Aleppo.
Syrian government forces have been regaining control of further areas once held by militants in Idlib province.