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Middle East

Syria army hails recapture of rebel town near Damascus

Free Syrian Army fighters prepare their weapons, at the Jabal al-Akrad area in Syria's northwestern Latakia province October 10, 2013. Picture taken October 10, 2013. REUTERS/Khattab Abdulaa (SYRIA - Tags: CONFLICT) Free Syrian Army fighters prepare their weapons, at the Jabal al-Akrad area in Syria's northwestern Latakia province

DAMASCUS: Syrian troops recaptured the strategic town of Bweida, south of Damascus, from rebel forces on Wednesday, state media and a monitoring group reported.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the army was backed by Iraqi and Lebanese Shiite militia in the assault on the town, which lies not far from the shrine of Sayyida Zeinab, revered by Shiites around the world.

State television said the army had "restored safety and stability to the Bweida area of Damascus province after it defeated the terrorists and destroyed their criminal equipment."

Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said that government troops had been supported by Hezbollah fighters as well as volunteers from the Abul Fadl al-Abbas brigade, who include Iraqis.

"The army's advance is part of an attempt to crush the rebels' positions in the countryside south of Damascus, in order to isolate those operating within the southern belt of the capital," Abdel Rahman said.

There was also fighting on Wednesday nearer to the Sayyida Zeinab shrine, and in the Hojeira district of south Damascus.

For several months, the army has placed a suffocating siege on rebel-held districts south of the capital.

 

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