People flee the rebel-held town of Atareb in northern Syria on Tuesday during a bombardment by government forces. (Aaref Watad/AFP via Getty Images)

Syrian Troops Retake Strategic Damascus-Aleppo Highway

Syrian forces conducting an offensive since December against some of the last rebel holdouts in the country’s almost nine-year civil war have now taken complete control of the strategic road between the capital Damascus and the northwestern city of Aleppo. It marks the first time since 2012 that the government of President Bashar al-Assad has held the entire highway, which traverses Idlib Province, the last major stronghold for anti-Assad rebels. The final section of the road taken on Tuesday morning is described as being in a western suburb of Aleppo. Government troops backed by Russian ground and air units have spent the past week mopping up rebel outposts along the M5 highway. The fighting in general has created a new and large wave of displaced people. Many of them are heading north toward Turkey, which is already buckling under the burden of an estimated 3.6 million Syrian refugees and has invaded a narrow northern strip of the country in an effort to stem this flow.

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