A “humanitarian corridor” has been opened in Syria so civilians from one of the last remaining rebel-held regions can leave and enter government-held territory, authorities have said.
The country’s foreign ministry said the corridor in the village of Suran, to the south of Hama province, would allow people from the north of Hama and southern Idlib to leave the region.
It said those who left would receive food, shelter and healthcare.
The move comes as government warplanes carried out an airstrike close to a Turkish military post in northwestern Syria, which raised tensions between the neighbours, with Ankara backing Syrian opposition and rebel forces.
It is not known if there were any casualties as a result of the strike.
Rebel fighters have suffered a series of setbacks over the past three weeks with the government stepping up its offensive in northwest Syria, where the last rebel-held territory remains.
State forces took control of the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib after an al Qaeda-linked group pulled out and they launched a siege on rebel-held towns.
Tens of thousands of civilians live in the besieged area in Hama, as well as rebel forces and Turkish troops.
Walid al Moallem, Syria’s foreign minister, vowed to continue fighting rebel forces until the whole of Syria came under government control.
He said fighting would continue “despite the Turkish intervention, which tries to help these terrorist groups and provides them with unlimited support”.
Syrian warplanes carried out airstrikes on villages north of Khan Sheikhoun on Thursday, according to opposition activists.
The villages sit on a highway linking Damascus with Aleppo in the north, with government forces hoping to eventually open the road.
The opposition’s Syrian Civil Defence – known as the White Helmets – reported airstrikes on several towns in the region.
The recent advance by Syrian forces marks a major blow for rebel fighters in their last remaining stronghold of Idlib, which is home to three million people, many of who are displaced due to fighting elsewhere in the country.
More than half a million people have been forced to flee their homes and more than 2,000 people – including hundreds of civilians – have died since state fighters launched an offensive in Idlib in April.