August 31, 2016 / 5:15 PM / 3 years ago

Syrian rebels advance further toward government-held Hama city: monitor, rebels

Rebel fighters from the hardline jihadist Jund al-Aqsa man a checkpoint in Taybat al Imam town after they advanced in the town in Hama province, Syria August 31, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian rebels advanced further toward government-held Hama city on Wednesday, capturing a town in an offensive that threatens government loyalist areas populated by minority Christians and Alawites north of the city, rebels and a monitor said.

The town of Soran, around 14 km north of Hama on the main Aleppo-Damascus highway, was taken “completely”, the hardline jihadist rebel group Jund al-Aqsa said in an online statement.

Since launching an offensive on Monday in the northern Hama countryside, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) alliance and other rebel groups have taken a number of towns and villages.

They are pushing south from rebel-held Idlib province into a swathe of government-held land which reaches down to the capital Damascus.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the five-year conflict, said Soran had been taken and clashes and air strikes between government forces and rebels continue.

Reporting by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Alison Williams

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