0557 GMT September 18, 2019
The Syrian forces first captured the village of Arbaeen overnight, then the nearby Zakat early in the morning as part of their offensive on Idlib Province, the last remaining major terrorist stronghold in Syria, AP wrote.
The developments were reported Wednesday by the government-run Syrian Central Military Media and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitoring group.
Earlier this week, the Syrian Army announced it was resuming an offensive on the terrorist-held northwest over violation of the latest truce there. If the army keeps pushing into the northwest, Syrian forces could get in contact with Turkish troops that have 12 observation posts along the border of Idlib. The closest Turkish point is in Morek, about 12 kilometers (nine miles) east of Zakat.
Syrian troops have been attacking Idlib and a stretch of land around it controlled by terrorists since April 30.
Zakat and Arbaeen were controlled by Jaish al-Izza, one of the main terrorist groups in northern parts of the central province of Hama.
The observatory said government forces are at the gates of Kfar Zeita now, adding that fighting in the two villages killed 18 terrorists and 10 Syrian troops.
Kfar Zeita is one of the largest cities in the northern parts of Hama Province and lies on the edge of Idlib, which is home to some three million people, many of them internally displaced by fighting elsewhere in Syria. Kfar Zeita and the nearby town of Latamneh appear to be main targets of the latest government offensive.
Also Wednesday, Turkey's Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said his country would like to establish a so-called "safe zone" in northeast Syria jointly with the United States but will act alone if necessary. Akar spoke as Turkish and US military officials continued to hold talks in Ankara over the zone.
He said the talks were progressing in a "positive" manner, adding that the American officials' views were "moving closer" to Turkey's.
Ankara wants to control — in coordination with the US — a 19-25 mile-deep zone east of the Euphrates river in Syria, and wants no Syrian Kurdish militants there. Turkey sees the Syrian Kurdish militants as terrorists aligned with a Kurdish insurgency within Turkey.
Turkey has threatened to attack this part of Syria to push back the US-allied Syrian Kurdish militants, known as Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF.