At least 42 people have been in killed in two car bomb blasts in the Syrian city of Homs.
Syrian state news agency SANA said on Sunday that the attack took place near the entrance to the al-Arman neighbourhood in Homs city. Dozens more were wounded in the attacks, local officials said.
An Al Jazeera correspondent in Homs said the death toll was 42. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at 46, adding that among those killed were 28 civilians.
Homs city is largely under government control and has regularly been targeted in bomb attacks, including a deadly double bombing last month that killed at least 22 people and was claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The bombings came as Syrian government forces continued to tighten their grip around Aleppo province, as they push for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) stronghold in Raqqa.
The Observatory said on Sunday that government forces backed by Russian air strikes have captured 18 villages in Aleppo’s eastern suburbs – giving them access to 40km of the highway between Aleppo and Raqqa.
The stretch of highway passes by the Kweires military airport that government forces recaptured in November.
The latest government advance in Aleppo comes after days of deadly clashes against ISIL fighters who control parts of northern Syria, including Raqqa province.
SANA said on Saturday evening that the Syrian army “restored security and stability to a number of villages” in Aleppo’s northeastern suburbs.
“Full control was established over the Thermal Power Station and a number of surrounding villages in the eastern countryside of Aleppo.
“Army units defeated the remaining remnants of ISIL terrorist organisation from the Thermal Power Station and the surrounding areas 30km to the east of Aleppo,” SANA reported on their website.
The Syrian government launched a major offensive from the north of Aleppo and captured several strategically important towns earlier this month.
The offensive has led to the displacement of more than 50,000 civilians from Aleppo, tens of thousands of whom have amassed in camps at the Turkish border.
Elsewhere, in the southern suburbs of Hasakah province, the Syrian Democratic Forces clashed with ISIL fighters on Saturday evening.
The Observatory said the SDF have captured several villages around ISIL-controlled Shadadi city in Hasakah province. The group launched an offensive against ISIL last week and said they cut several supply lines for the group in the area.
The SDF was founded in Syria’s mainly Kurdish northeastern region in October 2015, and is made up of at least 15 armed factions – mostly fighters from the YPG and the Free Syrian Army.