The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has secured the entire M5 highway accomplishing the objective of its large-scale military operation in the northwestern region, the Lebanese al-Mayadeen TV and several other sources confirmed on February 12.
Army units imposed control of the last militants’ positions along the highway over the last two days. The army cleared the district of Rashidin 4 as well as the town of Khan al-Asal and a nearby hilltop.
The M5 highway, which passes through Homs, Hama and Idlib, links the capital, Damascus, with the city of Aleppo, the country’s industrial hub.
While advancing along the M5 highway, the SAA secured town of Khan Shaykhun, the gate to southern Idlib. Later, the army liberated the cities of Ma`arat al-Nu`man and Saraqib, the biggest urban centers in southern Idlib, as well as the al-Eis hilltop, one of the highest points in southwestern Aleppo.
Russia and Turkey reached an agreement in 2018 to reopen the M5. However, Ankara didn’t fulfill its commitment and the road remained under the control of al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). Due to this, a military operation to open the highway was inevitable.
More work is need to secure the areas to the north of the M5 before the highway could be reopened for public. This will not likely take much time.
The SAA is still advancing in western Aleppo. While, the advance appears to be aimed at securing the M5 highway, the army could be seeking bigger targets.