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Syria army advances against rebels in south


Map of Syria. Image source lonelyplanet

Map of Syria. Image source lonelyplanet

Regime forces seized a military base from rebels in southern Syria on Tuesday and were locked in heavy fighting in a nearby opposition stronghold, a monitor and state media said.

Government troops captured the Brigade 82 base outside Sheikh Miskeen in Daraa province and were clashing with rebels inside the town, state news agency SANA said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported the advances, saying army forces backed by fighters from Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement and air strikes were engaged in fierce fighting with rebels.

The Britain-based monitoring group said regime forces seized the base a day after taking the northern part of the town.

Rebel groups, including Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front, had been in control of Sheikh Miskeen and Brigade 82 since last year.

Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said the town was strategically important because of its location on a crossroads between Damascus to the north and the city of Sweida to the east, both of which are under government control.

It also lies about 12 kilometres (seven miles) from the rebel stronghold of Nawa, another key target for regime forces.

Most of Daraa province is controlled by opposition forces, though the government holds parts of the provincial capital and a few villages in the northwest.

Daraa is often dubbed the “cradle” of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad that began with protests in March 2011.

Since then, more than 250,000 people have been killed in a complex, multi-front war that has displaced more than half the country’s population.

Government forces backed by pro-regime militia scored another victory on Tuesday in the central province of Homs.

Army units and the pro-regime National Defence Forces militia recaptured the areas of Maheen, Hadath, and Hawareen from the Islamic State jihadist group, SANA said.

They also seized nearby hilltops, it reported.

The towns have changed hands between Syrian troops and IS for weeks as the jihadists seek to advance from territory they control further east.

The Observatory confirmed the recapture of the areas in Homs, and said it had come with air support from Russian warplanes, which have been bombing rebels in Syria for nearly three months.

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