Turkish army tanks are seen in Afrin, Syria, on Jan. 22, 2018. (Xinhua)
DAMASCUS, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) -- The Turkish forces and Turkey-backed rebels on Monday managed to capture a town in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, after two previous failed attempts, a war monitor reported.
The Turkey-backed rebels and Turkish forces captured the town of Nairab in the eastern Idlib countryside after eight hours of intense fighting and heavy shelling, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
A total of nine Syrian soldiers were killed by the Turkish shelling, the Britain-based watchdog said, adding the Syrian forces fired missiles at the town later.
The Syrian town is strategic for the Turkish forces and allied rebels given its proximity to the M4 highway which connects Aleppo Province with Latakia Province in northwestern Syria.
The town is also considered the gate to Saraqeb, a strategic city captured by the Syrian army recently, as the city overlooks the M5 highway that connects the capital Damascus in the south with Aleppo in the north.
The Syrian army has secured the entire M5 highway and opened it for travel.
The ongoing battles in Idlib reflect the tension and lack of understanding between Russia and Turkey.
Earlier in the day, around 10 Turkish soldiers were killed or wounded after Syrian and Russian warplanes targeted a Turkish observation point in the area of Kinsafra in the southern countryside of Idlib.
The Russia-backed Syrian army has been on a crushing offensive to eliminate the ultra-radical rebels in Idlib and nearby Aleppo.
Turkey, which supports the rebels, wants to bring the Syrian offensive to a halt in Idlib, thus clashing with the Syrian army from time to time.