DAMASCUS, Sept. 15 (Xinhua) -- Syria's Defense Minister Ali Abdullah Ayyoub on Saturday visited military positions in the countryside of Idlib province, where the Syrian army is bracing for an offensive to retake the last major rebel stronghold.
Upon the directives of President Bashar al-Assad, Ayyoub visited the military positions in the countrysides of Idlib, the central province of Hama and Latakia province in northwestern Syria, according to the state news agency SANA.
The rebels hold the areas in a triangle that stretches through the southern countryside of Idlib, the northeastern countryside of Latakia and the northern countryside of Hama.
The Syrian forces on frontline areas near the rebel-held ones are bracing to launch a wide-scale offensive to dislodge the rebels from those areas as a prelude to the decisive battle in Idlib, which is the last major rebel stronghold in Syria.
According to SANA, the defense minister met with Syrian forces on the frontline, discussing the measures and readiness of the Syrian forces to maintain high readiness to "secure engaging in combat battles later to end any presence of terrorist groups on Syrian soil."
The Syrian army has been targeting rebel positions in the northern countryside of Hama and southern Idlib countryside recently, as a prelude to the anticipated battle.
As Turkey has a sway on the rebel groups in Idlib, the battle has been postponed amid efforts to separate the terror-designated groups from the less radical ones that could opt to achieve reconciliation with the government.