DAMASCUS, July 31 (Xinhua) -- Intense shelling targeted the countryside of the northwestern province of Idlib Tuesday close to government-controlled areas on the Syrian coast, as tension is brewing over a possible wide-scale military assault on that key rebels' bastion, a monitor group reported.
The bombardment targeted the western countryside of the Jisr al-Shughour area in the western countryside of Idlib, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The army forces also shelled rebel-held areas near the mountains of the coastal city of Latakia near Idlib, the observatory added.
The shelling caused a fire in agricultural lands with no information on casualties, it said.
The shelling on the western countryside of Idlib comes in part to quell the rebels from sending offense drones over the Russian-run Hmeimim airbase in the countryside of Latakia.
The Russian base shot down several drones launched by the rebels from Idlib.
Another reason for the shelling could be a prelude for Syrian forces' anticipated wide-scale offensive in Idlib, which is a largely rebel-held province that has become the destination of all those defeated rebels fleeing other areas in Syria.
Russian media outlets recently cited Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as saying that Idlib is next after the army, with the help of the Russians, almost captured the entire southern region which includes Daraa and Quneitra provinces near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
The rebels in Idlib have reportedly formed the so-called Jaish al-Fateh, akin to the same rebel alliance that captured Idlib in 2015, to face the anticipated military offensive on Idlib amid Turkish warnings against such operation as almost all of the militant groups there are backed by Turkey.
The army is so close to declaring the entire Daraa province empty of rebels following the latest battle with the Islamic State (IS) in the Yarmouk basin area.
Daraa was the birthplace of the Syrian crisis and the army managed to capture it either through military offensives or reconciliation deals backed by Russia.