File - Free Syrian Army fighters prepare to raid a house in Daraa May 16, 2013. REUTERS/Thaer Abdallah
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Syrian rebels backed by the United States are making their biggest gains yet south of the capital Damascus, capturing a string of towns from government forces and aiming to carve out a swath of territory leading to the doorstep of President Bashar Assad's seat of power.The rebel forces are believed to include fighters who graduated from a nearly 2-year-old CIA training program based in Syria's southern neighbor Jordan.Notably, in the south, the rebels are working together with fighters from Al-Qaeda's Syria branch, whose battle-hardened militants have helped them gain the momentum against government forces.Speaking by telephone, Jbawi said 54 rebel factions consisting of 30,000 fighters are taking part in the battles in southern Syria. Activists say that Jordan is also facilitating the rebels' push by arming some rebels and allowing them to cross freely to and from the country. However, despite the rebel advance, Assad's forces remain strong in the area, holding bases in critical locations that the rebels will find difficult to capture, he said.
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