Syrian forces retake key military base
BEIRUT — Syrian forces have retaken a key southern military base after heavy fighting with rebels and an Al Qaeda affiliate and have seized mountain villages after driving out Islamic State fighters, the government and opposition activists said Tuesday.
The advances came after the army killed 17 fighters from Islamic rebel factions gathered at farmhouses in the southern Daraa province late Saturday and 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 in January, the two sides said, adding that the troops also took control of the northern part of the town. The area is 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. The conflict has killed more than 250,000 people and generated a massive refugee crisis.
All sides said fighting in the area was ongoing.