Syrian rebels, backed by Turkish tanks and airstrikes, launched Saturday a major assault on the Islamic State-held town of Dabiq, where the jihadis believe an end-of-times battle will take place, a monitoring group said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights added that the rebels seized the nearby village of Ghailaniyeh from Islamic State, thereby expanding the area from which the rebels can advance on Dabiq.
A rebel field commander, who spoke on condition of anonymity, expected the town to fall "within hours."
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed progress on Dabiq, and said that the forces planned to create a safe zone of 5,000 square kilometres in northern Syria.
The Britain-based Observatory reported on Friday that its activists inside Syria had monitored more than 1,200 Islamic State fighters heading to the defence of Dabiq, including forces pulled out of other front lines.
According to Islamic State's ideology, an apocalyptic battle is to take place in Dabiq between Muslims and Christians.
The extremist group has named its English-language magazine after the town.
Islamic State has been on the back foot north of Aleppo since Turkish forces and allied rebels crossed the border in August in an operation aimed at the hardline jihadis as well as Kurdish forces.
The rebels and Turkey have captured more than 900 square kilometres in the region from Islamic State, including the strategic border towns of al-Rai and Jarabulus.