TEHRAN (Press Shia Agency) – Syria’s transport ministry declared the main highway between Damascus and Aleppo open to the public on Saturday after troops recaptured the major artery in a major offensive.

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“Transport Minister Ali Hammoud announces the opening of the Damascus-Aleppo highway to traffic, placing it at the service of citizens,” the ministry said in a statement on Saturday, SANA reported.

Taking back the M5 highway from terrorists marks a big gain for President Bashar al-Assad, as it restores state control over the route between Syria’s two biggest cities for the first time in years of conflict.

Control of the M5 has been seen as a main goal of the Syrian army’s latest offensive. With Russian backing, Syrian forces have gained ground in northwest Syria, the last major rebel stronghold, since December. That comes as the Syrian army continues to make gains against militants in Aleppo and Idlib.

However, Turkey has reinforced its positions in Idlib. Meanwhile, the Syrian army has warned that its air defense systems will shoot down any aircraft that violates the country’s air space. 

Separately, the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that as many as 2,700 Turkish military vehicles were sent into Syria as the Syrian government forces were making advances in the northern province of Idlib and Aleppo.