Regime forces were routed from villages in central Syria in an oppositions offensive on Hama, threatening Damascus’ hold of the provincial capital.
Rebels have continued their advance on Hama city in central Syria, as fighters claimed to have captured Maardes village along with a Russian missile battalion.
Idlib-based Jund al-Aqsa announced that fighters had won the village from the regime after overnight fighting.
Maardes is positioned an important junction to Hama, one of the largest cities in central Syria and a potent symbol of the revolution.
The Damascus-Aleppo highway also runs through the village, and links to the provincial capital around 14km to the south.
Northern Hama holds a number of loyalist villages mostly populated by Alawites, a religious minority which is the faith of President Bashar al-Assad’s family.
Free Syrian Army rebels and Jaish al-Fatah have been part of the offensive, and are joined by Jund al-Aqsa, a jihadi group with alleged links to al-Qaeda.
Syrian regime defenders were routed from a number of villages and took Soran, which had a military base, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
It puts the rebels on the outskirts of Muhradah, a mostly Christian village. Syrian state news reported that a power station in the village was severely damaged by rebel rockets, causing a fire and power outage.
Hama city was briefly in rebel hands at the beginning of the revolution but was subject to a siege by the regime who later recaptured the city.
The city was also the centre of an Islamist uprising in 1982, which was brutally supressed by the Syrian army with as many as 40,000 people – mostly civilians – dying in the bombardment of Hama.