DAMASCUS — More than 50 Islamic State (IS) militants have been killed over the past 24 hours during intense battles against the Syrian government forces in the countryside of the northern province of Aleppo, a monitor group reported on Sunday.

These militants were killed during heavy shelling, air strikes, and battles against the Syrian army since Saturday, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The UK-based watchdog group said the Syrian army is advancing in the eastern countryside of Aleppo, adding that large number of the IS militants are besieged by the Syrian troops in 16 towns located on the road between Aleppo and al-Raqqa, the de facto capital of the IS.

A day earlier, the Syrian state TV said the Syrian army captured parts of the road connecting Aleppo with al-Raqqa, adding that the Syrian forces fully secured the road in the areas of al-Ma’amel, through Aleppo’s Thermal Station, and the airbase of Kweris in the eastern countryside of Aleppo.

The progress is the latest achievement of the Syrian forces backed by the Lebanese Hezbollah group in Aleppo, as reports said that the Syrian troops are closing in on al-Raqqa.

Less than a week ago, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Syrian army was preparing to advance toward al-Raqqa.

The UK-based watchdog group said the Syrian army are a few kilometers away from the provincial borders of al-Raqqa, following the rapid progress it has recently achieved on the desert highway near the town of Athraya.

Advancing toward al-Raqqa will grant the Syrian army a foothold in that city for the first time since the IS terror group captured the al-Tabaqa airbase in 2014, the last government stronghold in the city.

The progress reflected the declared goal of the Syrian administration to keep striking the militant groups, following the failure of the first round of the talks in Geneva earlier this week between the Syrian government and the various opposition groups. PNA/Xinhua/northboundasia.com