Syrian army makes strategic gain in north

Syrian pro-government forces celebrate after capturing the Kweyris military air base as part of an offensive across Aleppo province in November 2015 (AFP Photo/George Ourfalian) (AFP/File)

Damascus (AFP) - The Syrian army, backed by Russian air strikes, captured a rebel stronghold in the northern province of Aleppo on Sunday, driving out the Islamists, a monitoring group said.

State news agency SANA also said that army units and other pro-regime forces had seized control of Khan Tuman and neighbouring farms.

Khan Tuman was the scene of fierce clashes between loyalist forces, including fighters of Lebanon's Shiite militia Hezbollah, and Islamist rebels, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Syrian and Russian aircraft carried out at least 40 strikes, it said.

The Britain-based monitoring group said 16 Islamists were killed but it did not have details of casualties on the pro-government sides.

The Syrian military has since mid-October recaptured several areas in the north of the country from Islamist forces, including Al-Qaeda's Syrian branch, Al-Nusra Front.

Regime forces have been buoyed by Russian air strikes since September 30 in support of President Bashar al-Assad's government.