Syrian regime forces are set to retake a key motorway connecting the capital Damascus to second city Aleppo following weeks of battles in the opposition-held Idlib region, said the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor on Sunday.
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 war.
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 regime advances in Syria's northwest, only a two-kilometer section of the M5 remains outside government control, said the war monitor.
Key to the territory is the strategic city of Saraqib, held by opposition forces.
"Regime forces have gained new ground and now control several villages near the motorway," Observatory head Rami Abdul Rahman told AFP.
Syrian government recaptured 600 square kilometers
On the same day, the Syrian regime announced it has recaptured more than 600 square kilometers of territory so far in its campaign in Idlib.
The Syrian army has taken control of dozens of towns and villages in recent days as part of the campaign, a statement from the armed forces said.
The Syrian regime has been bombarding the area around the strategic city of Saraqib, Idlib, which is the intersection of two major highways.
Turkey and Russia have both been drawn into the conflict as the Russian-backed regime killed eight Turkish soldiers in the area, prompting a war of words between the two sides. Turkey, which supports opposition groups in Idlib, mans several observation posts.