The Syrian army has expanded its control over former Islamic State-held villages in northwest Syria, gaining more territory as it pushes back the jihadists from more pockets in Aleppo province, Reuters reported citing state media.
The army has made steady progress in recent weeks in eastern Aleppo countryside where it now occupies more villages, state-owned Ikhbariyah quoted a military source as saying.
The army's gains follow a push to the south and east of the city of al-Bab, which was captured by Turkey-backed rebels late last month.
Earlier, rebels said they had thwarted a large assault by the Syrian army and Iranian-backed rebels on their remaining strongholds in the western Aleppo countryside near Rashdeen.
By taking Islamic State territory south of al-Bab, the army is preventing any possible move by Turkey and the rebel groups it supports to expand southwards. It is also moving closer to regaining control of water supplies for Aleppo.
Islamic State's holdings in northwest Syria have been whittled away over recent months by successive advances by three different, rival forces: Syrian Kurdish groups backed by the United States, the Turkey-backed rebels, and the army.
Islamic State's loss of al-Bab after weeks of bitter street fighting marks the group's effective departure from northwest Syria, once one of its most fearsome strongholds, and an area of importance because of its location on the Turkish border.
Steady advances since 2015 by the Syrian Democratic Forces -the Kurdish-led alliance of U.S.-led armed groups - had already pushed Islamic State from much of the frontier by the middle of last year and have since then threatened its stronghold in Raqqa.
Turkey's entry into Syria's civil war via the Euphrates Shield campaign in support of rebel groups fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army was intended both to push Islamic State from the border and to stop Kurdish expansion there.