Syrian troops take over Damascus suburb

Author : Mircea Birca | Friday, August 15, 2014
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Syrian government troops captured a fiercely contested suburb of the capital Thursday after five months of heavy fighting, flushing rebels from their last hideouts and quickly moving to crush pockets of resistance in the surrounding countryside, activists and state media said.

The fall of Mleiha, located some 10 km southeast of downtown Damascus, marks the latest setback for rebels around the capital. Over the past year, the opposition has watched as one stronghold after another has either slipped into government hands or been forced to strike lopsided truces.

The military’s campaign around Damascus has succeeded in pushing the rebels farther from the heart of the city, while also strengthening President Bashar Assad’s once shaky hold on the capital.

Assad’s forces have waged a ferocious offensive since April to try to dislodge rebels from Mleiha, pounding the town with airstrikes and artillery. Both sides placed a premium on controlling Mleiha because of its strategic location near the highway to the Damascus airport, as well the opposition stronghold of eastern Ghouta.

Government troops backed by fighters from the Lebanese Hezbollah, a Shiite militant group, finally seized the town Thursday, the Britain—based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“Mleiha is under government control, but there is still fighting in the areas surrounding the town,” said Observatory director Rami Abdurrahman.

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