French and Malian forces fighting Islamist rebels seized control of the rebel bastion of Gao, claiming their biggest military success so far in the assault against Islamist fighters occupying the north of the country.
From Gao forces will move further north towards the ancient city of Timbuktu and Kidal.
There have been 30 French air strikes on militant targets around Gao and Timbuktu in the past 36 hours.
Throughout ten months of Islamist rule, the people of Timbuktu risked their lives to preserve the artefacts of their ancient heritage.
Francois Hollande is due to visit Timbuktu during his visit to the West African country this weekend. He will be welcomed by many.
Downing Street have been explaining what offers the UK have made to the military effort in Mali.