Azaz, Aleppo
Syrian forces step up offensive in AleppoReuters

Syrian forces are looking to recapture the de facto capital of the Islamic State (Isis) in the country after tightening their grip on key towns and villages in Aleppo. Some of the key facilities and villages in the north-eastern parts of Aleppo are also claimed to have been retaken after the operation was aided by Russian air strikes.

Syrian state agency SANA said forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have "restored security and stability to a number of villages" in Aleppo."Full control was established over the thermal power station and a number of surrounding villages in the eastern countryside of Aleppo."

"Army units defeated the remaining remnants of ISIL [another acronym for IS] terrorist organisation from the thermal power station and the surrounding areas 30km to the east of Aleppo." In the muddled Syrian conflict, parts of Aleppo – once Syria's most populous province – are controlled by IS militants, the Syrian government and anti-Assad rebel forces.

The Assad government troops have stepped up their offensive against the opponents in Aleppo since the start of February. They have has also forced up to 50,000 people to flee the province and seek shelter in neighbouring Turkey.

The Assad regime's latest military campaign has also been corroborated by the UK-based monitoring agency Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The organisation said at least 18 villages were recaptured by Syrian forces giving them control of the 40km-long highway between Aleppo and Raqqa, the IS stronghold in Syria.