Russian-backed regime forces seized several towns and villages in north-west Syria Thursday (August 29th), as deadly airstrikes hit the extremist-held bastion, AFP reported.
Seven civilians died in airstrikes in the south of the bastion, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, a day after regime airstrikes killed 12 others, including six children in a single town.
Last week, the regime took control of the town of Khan Sheikhun on a key highway that runs through Idlib province, linking Damascus to Aleppo.
Overnight, pro-government fighters "managed to advance in the southern Idlib countryside", according to Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
They took control of the towns of al-Tamaanah and al-Khuwayn, as well as nearby villages, east of Khan Sheikhun, he said.
"The forces are trying to further extend their control in the area of Khan Sheikhun before they advance north in the direction of the town of Maaret al-Numan," he added.
Maaret al-Numan is the next stop northwards on the Damascus-Aleppo highway.
Regime airstrikes killed 12 civilians -- half of them children -- in Maaret al-Numan on Wednesday.
Another four civilians, including one child, were killed in other parts of the bastion.
Increased bombardment by the Syrian military and Russia since late April has killed more than 950 civilians in Idlib.