Syria regime retakes key town outside capital: monitor

BEIRUT, LEBANON- Syrian troops backed by fighters from the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah retook a key town and nine surrounding villages outside Damascus from rebels on Thursday, a monitor said.
Pro-regime fighters used clashes between rival rebel factions Jaish al-Islam and Faylaq al-Rahman as an opportunity to retake the town of Deir al-Assafir, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

As rebels summoned their fighters from Deir al-Assafir to the frontline, regime forces launched "a violent attack and heavy air campaign resulting in them controlling the town" in the opposition bastion of Eastern Ghouta, the Observatory's head said.
They were then able to "advance rapidly in the south of Eastern Ghouta after rebel fighters retreated after losing Deir al-Assafir, fearing they would be besieged," Rami Abdel Rahman said.
Hundreds of families fled the area, which Islamist rebels had controlled since 2012.
In April fighting erupted opposing Jaish al-Islam against Faylaq al-Rahman and another rebel group, Jaish al-Fustat -- both allied to Al-Nusra Front, Syria's Al-Qaeda affiliate.
The regime had been trying to retake Deir al-Assafir since February, Abdel Rahman said, despite Eastern Ghouta being included in a fragile nationwide ceasefire between the army and non-jihadist rebels.
The latest advance with Hezbollah's support comes just days after the Iran-backed movement said its top military commander was killed in Syria in an attack it blamed on Islamist extremists.
The movement has deployed thousands of fighters in Syria, where Mustafa Badreddine had led its intervention in support of President Bashar al-Assad.
More than 270,000 people have been killed since the conflict erupted in Syria in March 2011.

Thursday, May 19th 2016

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