Syrian rebels launch offensive
Syrian rebels have launched an offensive against a major government-held city in north-western Syria, shelling the outskirts and warning residents to remain indoors in the coming days.
The target of the operation is Idlib, a city of some 165,000 people and the provincial capital.
Opposition fighters have controlled the countryside and towns across the province since 2012, but President Bashar Assad's forces have managed to maintain their grip on Idlib city.
The armed opposition factions announced the campaign to capture the city of Idlib in a message posted online.
They tell residents the rebels "are at the walls of Idlib" and "have decided to liberate this good town". The message also asks locals to remain indoors in the coming days.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rebels are shelling the city, but have yet to try to push into Idlib itself.
The Idlib Media Centre also said the rebels are targeting government positions on the city's outskirts.
Observatory director Rami Abdurrahman said the opposition groups involved in the operation include the al Qaida-affiliated Nusra Front as well as Islamist rebel factions.