Syrian regime forces backed by Russian air strikes advanced on Tuesday south of Aleppo city towards a rebel-held highway.
The Syrian regime forces said that they are attacking the outskirts of Zirba town after they seized several villages in the area recently including Zitan, Humaira, Khalsa and Qalaajiya.
However, the rebel-controlled town of Khan Toman is besieged by the pro-regime forces.
The regime is attempting to control the strategically important highway between Damascus and Aleppo which is used by rebels to provide supplies from Idlib city to the northern territories.
The aim of the regime forces appears to be cutting the main Aleppo-Damascus highway that the rebels are using to transport supplies from the mostly rebel-held Idlib Province to the north.
Regime forces supported by Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah militias have made advances in ground offensives against rebels south of Aleppo under the cover of Russian air strikes which began in Syria on September 30 in support of Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad - Russia’s long-term ally.
The offensives against the rebels have made gains in Latakia Province near Turkey's border, the homeland of the Alawite sect to which Assad belongs.
Khan Toman town, 10 km south of Aleppo city, is a flash point for the on-going confrontations between regime forces allied by the Iranian, Hezbollah and Iraqis People Protecting Units, and rebel groups including the Al Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front.
The town, which was captured by rebels in 2013, could be retaken by regime forces according to rebels who complain of an intensified assault on them in the area aided by heavy air strikes from Russian warplanes.
"The situation is very bad, Russian air strikes against rebels are too heavy, but even so this is increasing the spirit in fighting the regime” an on ground source told TRTWorld.
If the forces of the regime and its allies were able to control the highway, this would bring them closer to the two besieged Shiite towns Kefraya and al-Foua in the west.
"We have built fortifications to thwart any new advance," said Yousef al-Issa, a field commander for Ahrar al-Sham, one of the main insurgent groups fighting in the area, told Reuters.
"We are trying to disperse their forces but the Russian bombing is holding us back," he added.
Meanwhile, after retaking the town of Banes, the Nusra Front claimed through its media sources that its fighters started targeting the town of al Eis South west Aleppo, attacking regime forces and their allies. A suicide bombing was also reported to have been carried out by one of its militants.
The United Nations estimates the death toll in Syria since the war began to be at least 250,000, while the SOHR states that the number has now reached 350,000.