Syrian Troops Capture Another Village, Edging Toward Victory in Last Rebel-held Stronghold of Idlib

Move comes day after Al-Qaida-linked group downs government warplane

Syrian army soldiers flash the victory in northwestern Syria, August 13, 2019.

Syrian forces have gained more ground from insurgents in the country's northwest, edging closer to a major rebel-held town, a day after militants shot down a government warplane in the area.

The government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media said pro-government fighters captured three small villages, just west of the rebel stronghold of Khan Sheikhoun.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, said the villages fell on Thursday morning. It says the town of Khan Sheikhoun is being bombarded relentlessly.

>> Read more: As U.S. and Turkey argue over Idlib, Syria's wild south reawakens | Analysis 

Syrian troops have been on the offensive in Idlib and its surroundings, the last major rebel stronghold in Syria, since April 30.

State media confirmed insurgents downed the government plane on Wednesday. An Al-Qaida-linked group has released a video of the pilot in which the handcuffed man identified himself.