BEIRUT: Rebels launched a major assault Monday on two key military bases in northwestern Syria, killing 10 soldiers in the heaviest fighting the area has seen in months, activists said.
The offensive -- dubbed "The Earthquake" -- was aimed at seizing Wadi Deif and Hamidiyeh, which the insurgents have besieged for almost a year, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Wadi Deif, a garrison housing a large quantity of weapons in Idlib province, is located near Hamidiyeh, the last military stronghold in the region still in the hands of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's army.
Rocket and mortar fire from the rebels killed at least 10 soldiers and destroyed three tanks, said the Observatory, a Britain-based organisation that relies on activists across war-torn Syria for its information.
Forces loyal to Assad bombarded the rebel positions around the two bases with barrels filled with explosives, it added.
The insurgents have repeatedly tried to take control of the two bases over the past year, but to no avail.
Those involved in Monday's attack are from the Free Syrian Army, the rebel force backed by Arab and Western governments, and Liwa al-Umma, an Islamist brigade that includes Libyan fighters, said the Observatory.
The Syrian civil war has drawn in fighters from across the Arab world and beyond since it flared in response to a bloody government crackdown on democracy protests in 2011.
On Monday the army completely reopened the only supply route linking central Syria with the northern city of Aleppo after a year of fierce fighting between the two sides.
On August 26, the rebels cut off the road following weeks of heavy clashes to prevent the Assad regime sending reinforcements to Aleppo, the country's former commercial hub.