Syrian rebels intensified attacks Tuesday on the last remaining government forces in the northwestern province of Idlib, raining shells and mortars on two predominantly Shiite villages, activists said.
Meanwhile, Syrian authorities have arrested a relative of President Bashar Assad on suspicion of shooting a senior army officer in a traffic dispute — a slaying that set off rare protests in a coastal stronghold of the Assad family.
A coalition of rebel groups progressively has eroded Assad’s presence in Idlib province, taking the city of Idlib, followed by the strategic town of Jisr al-Shughour in late March.
The alliance, which calls itself Jaysh al-Fateh, or Conquest Army, is pushing toward the last government strongholds, Foua and Kfarya, home to Shiite populations where a large number of civilians are trapped. A nearby military air base remains under government control.
Activists said the rebels reached the entrances to the town of Foua, north of Idlib city, after detonating an underground tunnel.