BEIRUT (AP) — It’s arguably one of the vital coveted prizes in Syria’s civil conflict, and after eight years of combating, Syrian President Bashar Assad has bought it again.The Damascus-Aleppo freeway, or the M5, is thought to Syrians merely because the “Worldwide Street.” Slicing by means of all of Syria’s main cities, the motorway is essential to who controls the nation. Assad progressively misplaced management over the motorway from 2012, when varied insurgent teams combating to topple him started seizing components of the nation.Protests in opposition to his household’s rule had erupted the yr earlier than amid a wave of uprisings within the Arab world. This quickly become a civil conflict, following a brutal authorities crackdown on dissent and the intervention of overseas powers within the rising battle.Traditionally a bustling commerce route, one Syrian analyst, Taleb Ibrahim, referred to as the M5 “essentially the most fundamental and strategic freeway within the Center East.”For the Turkey-backed rebels combating Assad, the motorway was a cornerstone in holding collectively their territory and preserving authorities forces at bay. Its loss marks a mortal blow for opposition fighters whose maintain on their final patches of floor in northwestern Syria is trying increasingly precarious. Right here’s a take a look at the M5, and it’s place in Syria’s nine-year-long civil conflict: WHAT IS IT? The M5 is a strategic freeway that begins in southern Syria, close to the border with Jordan, and runs all the way in which north to the town of Aleppo close to the Turkish border. The 450-kilometer (280-mile) freeway hyperlinks the nation’s 4 largest cities and inhabitants facilities: Damascus, Homs, Hama, and Aleppo, slicing by means of Idlib province. Earlier than the conflict, the M5 motorway served as an financial artery for Syria — primarily feeding the nation’s industrial hub of Aleppo. Specialists estimate the highway carried enterprise value $25 million a day on the top of Syria’s commerce growth earlier than the conflict.The freeway was a passageway for the crossing of wheat and cotton from the Syrian east and north to the remainder of the nation. It was additionally a highway used for the change of commodities with regional commerce companions like Jordan, Saudi Arabia and different Arab states, in addition to Turkey.___RECOVERING CONTROLRegaining management over the freeway has been a prime precedence of the Assad authorities because the early days of the conflict. Its sluggish and tortuous restoration, in some ways, traces the arc of the Syrian conflict, which has killed practically half 1,000,000 individuals and uprooted half the nation’s pre-war inhabitants. The Syrian authorities started profitable again segments of the freeway, beginning in 2014. That’s when Russia joined the conflict on the aspect of Assad, and basically tipped it in his favor. Cities and cities positioned alongside components of the freeway, together with within the Ghouta area and within the suburbs of Damascus, now lie in ruins after lengthy sieges and constant bombardment compelled them into submission. The Russian-backed recapture of Aleppo in December 2016 was one other main game-changer.___END OF THE REBELS’ ROADUnder a September 2018 settlement between Russia and Turkey, the M5 and M4 highways have been speculated to be open for site visitors, linking the federal government’s stronghold on the coast with Aleppo earlier than the top of that yr. That by no means occurred, as insurgents refused to maneuver away and permit joint Russian-Turkish patrols to guard the site visitors there.That ultimately led to the newest authorities offensive in Idlib, the final rebel-held bastion within the nation.Authorities troops backed by Russia carried out a number of main advances in Idlib, retaking cities and villages on each side of the motorway. The seize of Khan Sheikhoun was the primary main breakthrough, adopted by Maaret al-Numan and Saraqeb, positioned on the intersection between the M4 and M5. This week, Syrian troops recaptured the final rebel-controlled part of the freeway round Khan al-Assal. That introduced the highway underneath the complete management of Assad’s forces for the primary time since 2012. The victory assertion got here not from the Syrian authorities, however from Russia’s protection ministry. It mentioned in a press release Wednesday that “Syria’s most essential transport artery” had been “freed” from insurgent management.___WHY IT MATTERSThe freeway’s seize is probably essentially the most important victory for Assad, whose forces have been making stable positive aspects because the finish of 2015 with the assistance of Russian airstrikes and Iran-backed fighters. Ibrahim, the political analyst, mentioned the freeway is so important as a result of it hyperlinks the nation’s two powerhouses — the capital of Damascus with the buying and selling hub of Aleppo. “In different phrases it hyperlinks Syria’s political capital with its financial capital,” he mentioned. It additionally hyperlinks up with the M4 freeway on the Saraqeb knot, opening up site visitors to the federal government’s coastal stronghold of Latakia and the port. Preventing continues in areas close to the freeway, and far of Idlib province stays in insurgent fingers.However the M5′s seizure goes an extended method to re-connect government-controlled areas, after that they had been severed from one another for years. ___Associated Press author Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, contributed to this report.