Syrian fighters have seized the last government-controlled town in the country’s northwestern province after government forces retreated to their coastal bases, according to activists and a monitoring group.
A Syrian coalition known as the Fattah Army seized the town of Ariha on Thursday, giving the group full control of Idlib province.
The Fattah Army is made up of several armed groups, notably the Nusra Front.
Hadi al-Abdallah, a Syrian activist reporting from Ariha, told Al Jazeera that dozens of Syrian soldiers were killed in the clashes.
“The Syrian army retreated from Ariha and the Fattah Army managed to attack at least three government tanks as they fled the city, leaving tens of government soldiers killed,” Abdallah said.
“Government soldiers retreated to several cities outside Idlib province, and the Fattah Army now have full control of the city following major losses to the Syrian regime.”
Last week the Fattah Army captured the largest remaining military base in Idlib after days of heavy clashes with regime forces.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Friday that clashes left many soldiers and armed rebels killed.
The monitor also reported that the group managed to take over several towns around Ariha after weeks of clashes with government forces and air strikes.
Dozens of families have reportedly fled Ariha, afraid of the government’s reaction to the loss.
The Fattah Army seized Idlib city on March 28, which was home to 40,000 people before the conflict began and the last remaining government-held city in the eponymous province, which borders Turkey.
It is strategically located near the main highway connecting Syria’s second city Aleppo and the capital Damascus.