Rebel fighters from Al-Fath Army move during clashes with the Syrian regime Army in Mastouma, in Idlib City, Syria, May 19, 2015. On Oct. 11, 2015, the Syrian military, backed by Lebanese Hezbollah fighters and Russian airstrikes, was reported to have made significant gains in a countrywide offensive to regain areas lost earlier in the year, including in Idlib province. Photo by Radwan Homsy/UPI | License Photo
DAMASCUS, Syria, Oct. 11 (UPI) -- The Syrian military, backed by Russian airstrikes and Hezbollah fighters, is regaining multiple territories in a countrywide counter-attack, according to reports.
Opposition activists and Syrian state news report government forces capturing villages in the Hama province and battling rebels in Latakia and Idlib provinces, where, along with Raqqa province, the Russian Ministry of Defense on Sunday reported conducting 64 combat sorties over the past 24 hours.
According to the BBC, the main battlefront lies near a strategic highway connecting Syria's capital, Damascus, with other major cities, such as Aleppo.
Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had before Russia's intervention on Sept. 30 largely been pushed into positions in western Syria -- particularly in Damascus and farther north in Latakia province, where the country's ruling Alawite minority resides.
Backed by Hezbollah militants and Russian air power, the Syrian military is now reportedly trying to cut off insurgent forces in Idlib. An offensive earlier this year by allied rebel groups -- including al-Qaida's Syrian wing, the Nusra Front -- had pushed regime forces out of the province, and by August the Syrian military had been forced into defensive positions on the edge of Latakia.
Likewise, IS forces over the summer seized the ancient ruins of Palmyra, in Homs province, to the south, reportedly bringing the amount of Syrian territory captured by the group to 40,000 square miles.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports clashes between Hezbollah-backed regime forces and rebels, including the Nusra Front, in the southern countryside of Idlib "amid mutual bombardment from both sides," as well as battles between government troops "backed by non-Syrian militants" and insurgent forces in Aleppo and Latakia provinces.
Russia maintains it is conducting airstrikes against IS forces and other "terrorists," but activists and Western officials accuse Moscow of propping up Assad, its regional ally, by attacking moderate opposition forces.
A leading figure with Nusra Front has called on rebel groups to conduct a coordinated countrywide counter-attack against Syrian military positions, noting failure to do so would mean a "horrible" future for opposition forces.