Beirut (AFP) - At least 50 Islamic State group fighters have been killed in the last 24 hours in an advance by Syrian government forces east of Aleppo city, a monitor said Sunday.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the fighters were killed in clashes as well as strikes by Russian forces that are waging an aerial campaign in support of government troops.
Since Saturday morning, Syrian government forces have taken more than a dozen villages from IS jihadists around a stretch of highway that runs east from the northern city of Aleppo to the Kweyris military base.
The advances have consolidated government control over the stretch of highway leading to Kweyris, which they seized in November.
"The army has encircled IS in 16 villages south of the road. The regime wants to take these villages to consolidate its position in the east and southeast of the province," said Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman.
The advances follow a major regime operation in northern Aleppo against rebel forces that has allowed them to virtually surround the opposition-held east of Aleppo city.