Syrian army, allies press major offensive north of Aleppo

AMMAN (Reuters) - The Syrian army and its allies made further advances on Tuesday in a major offensive that could cut insurgents' supply lines between the north western city of Aleppo and the Turkish border, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The advances, backed by allied militia and heavy Russian air support and which Syrian state media also reported, appear aimed at breaking through rebel-held territory north of Aleppo to reach the Shi'ite villages of Nubul and al-Zahraa.

They are loyal to Damascus and surrounded by opposition groups.

It is the first major offensive north of Aleppo - a city split into areas held by the government and the opposition - since Russia began its air campaign in support of President Bashar al-Assad on Sept. 30.

Damascus and its allies have pressed ahead with a number of offensives in western Syria even as the United Nations tries to advance peace talks in Geneva, recently seizing important towns in the northwest and southwest.

On Monday they seized the strategic village of Hardatnin some 10 km (six miles) northwest of Aleppo, the Observatory said.

The army and allied combatants gained ground in coastal areas last month and have also launched a large-scale assault in southern Syria against insurgents.

(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Dominic Evans and John Stonestreet)