Pro-regime forces hold a position during alleged operations to take control of surrounding areas on Ghouta.
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Syrian troops triumphantly swept through some of the last remaining opposition strongholds north of Damascus, including the ancient Christian village of Maaloula, sending rebel fighters fleeing to nearby hills amid an ever-tightening noose.The dramatic capture of Maaloula, Sarkha and Jibbeh was the fastest series of army successes against rebels in the Qalamoun region since the government launched an offensive in November in the strategic area, a wedge of mountainous territory between the capital and the Lebanese border.Although the army has been unable to reverse the rebels' gains in Latakia, it has stalled any further rebel advances.Syria's state news agency said forces loyal to Assad captured Sarkha early Monday before also sweeping rebels out of Maaloula. Hours later, troops seized the nearby town of Jibbeh. Rebels had taken the town and been driven out of it twice before.
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