Syrian troops retake military base in advance against rebels, extremists

BEIRUT -- Syrian forces have retaken a key southern military base after heavy fighting with rebels and an al Qaeda affiliate, and seized mountain villages after driving out Islamic State fighters, the government and opposition activists said Tuesday.

See Full Article

The advances came after the army killed 17 fighters from Islamic rebel factions gathered at farmhouses in the southern Daraa province late Saturday, and also eliminated a powerful rebel leader on the outskirts of Damascus a day earlier.

On Tuesday, government forces backed by allies captured the base of Brigade 82 in the town of Sheikh al-Maskeen, also in the Daraa area, which rebels had captured last January, the two sides said, adding that the troops also took control of the northern part of the town. The area is some 90 kilometres (56 miles) from the capital, Damascus.

"It's a very important gain for the regime forces. They've now cut the road between Daraa and Damascus," said Rami Abdurrahman of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Daraa was the birthplace of the 2011 uprising against President Bashar Assad, which began with mostly peaceful protests but escalated into a civil war following a harsh crackdown on dissent. The conflict has killed more than 250,000 people and generated a massive refugee crisis.

Abdurrahman said the fighting began a day earlier and that among the rebels were fighters from al Qaeda's Syrian affiliate, the Nusra Front, as well as various Islamic factions. Government troops were bolstered by Iranian officers, pro-government militiamen and Lebanese Hezbollah fighters, as well as some 80 airstrikes from the government side, possibly including some from Russian aircraft, he added.

Assad's forces have been on a major push since Russia began an air campaign in Syria on Sept. 30. Syrian troops and allied militiamen have launched ground offensives in different parts of the country, including areas near Damascus.

The latest developments could boost the government's position ahead of peace talks in Geneva next month.

Ahmad al-Masalmeh, an opposition activist in Daraa, said rockets, artillery, mortars and heavy machine-guns had been used in and around Sheikh al-Maskeen. He said the government had advanced on the base but had not completely captured it.

State news agency SANA said the army inflicted heavy losses on the militants, but did not give a death toll. Abdurrahman said dozens were killed on both sides, without giving a breakdown. Al-Masalmeh said the rebels lost some 20 fighters in two days of fighting, with 35 killed on the government side as well as eight civilians.

All sides said fighting in the area was ongoing.

Meanwhile in the Maheen area to the southeast of the central city of Homs, government forces took several towns and positions, consolidating their hold of an area around the city, the Observatory and SANA said. Homs was once known as the "capital of the revolution," but is now under almost complete government control.

The Observatory, which relies on local activists across Syria, said government warplanes carried out dozens of raids on IS positions. SANA said Syrian troops had established full control of Maheen town and the nearby mountains, as well as the villages of Al-Hadath and Hawareen.

Government forces managed to "wipe out" the last group of IS fighters in the area and are now pursuing their remnants toward al-Qaryatain city, SANA said.

Associated Press writer Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria contributed to this report.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Softwood lumber decision Tuesday is Trump's next chance to hammer Canada

    Canada News CBC News
    U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross stood beside Donald Trump as the U.S. president called Canada's actions against American trade interests "a disgrace." "That also includes what's happening along our northern border states with Canada, having to do with lumber and timber," he said, a vague snark that swivelled heads on both sides of the border. Source
  • Lexin Resources and the dark side of Alberta's downturn

    Canada News CBC News
    It was nearly a year ago when Allan MacRae got a call from a friend and former colleague warning of trouble brewing at a small Alberta natural gas producer. Lexin Resources wasn't on the radar of most Albertans last spring, but it was under scrutiny from the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), and some of its own employees had become concerned about safety. Source
  • Beware unintended consequences as governments meddle in real estate: Don Pittis

    Canada News CBC News
    In a science fiction tale by the late Iain Banks, the only way a huge computer can make a truly accurate predictive model is to create a near-perfect simulation, including recreating the realistic lives of all the people involved. Source
  • 'Embarrassment to Canadians': abuse, humiliation occurred at bases across country, soldiers say

    Canada News CBC News
    The alleged abuse of Canadian soldiers at the hands of their own military during training exercises was widespread during the '80s and '90s, according to former military members. After a Go Public investigation into a 1984 training exercise at Canadian Forces Base Wainwright, which was described by some participants as "torture," we were contacted by about a dozen ex soldiers who had similar stories. Source
  • Why banning uniformed police at Pride will actually make the event more inclusive

    Canada News CBC News
    For many white, straight, or cisgender people, it's easy to forget what the uniformed police officers who dance on parade floats do on the other 364 days of the year. For the rest of us, it's impossible. Source
  • Luxury shoe retailer Jimmy Choo is for sale

    World News CBC News
    A Jimmy Choo shoe is seen in a shop in downtown Rome in March 2016 file photo. (Max Rossi/Reuters) British luxury retailer Jimmy Choo is seeking offers for the company as part of a review of its strategic options to maximize shareholder value, it said on Monday. Source
  • Top Afghan officials resign in wake of massacre by Taliban at army base

    World News CBC News
    Afghan President Ashraf Ghani accepted the resignations of his defence minister and army chief of staff on Monday, after more than 140 soldiers were killed last week in the deadliest-ever Taliban attack on a military base, the president's office said. Source
  • New Orleans to take down Confederate monuments

    World News CBC News
    New Orleans planned to begin removing the first of four prominent Confederate monuments early Monday, the latest Southern institution to sever itself from symbols viewed by many as a representation racism and white supremacy. Workers were to begin removing the first memorial, one that commemorates whites who tried to topple a biracial post-Civil War government in New Orleans, overnight in an attempt to avoid disruption from supporters who want the monuments to stay, some of whom city officials…
  • 5 dead, including children, NYC house fire

    World News CBC News
    Investigators are scouring for clues about what sparked a deadly, fast-moving house fire that killed five people, including three children, on a sunny spring afternoon. The fire broke out Sunday afternoon, on a street full of single-family homes in the middle-class neighbourhood of Queens Village, a neighbourhood near Belmont Park. Source
  • 5 dead, including children, in NYC house fire

    World News CBC News
    Investigators are scouring for clues about what sparked a deadly, fast-moving house fire that killed five people, including three children, on a sunny spring afternoon. The fire broke out Sunday afternoon, on a street full of single-family homes in the middle-class neighbourhood of Queens Village, a neighbourhood near Belmont Park. Source