Syrian conflict: Syrian government forces capture extensive area near Damascus

On Thursday syrian government forces and allied militias seized an extensive area southeast of Damascus from rebels and fought other insurgents near a highway leading southwest, a monitoring group said.

Air and missile-strikes pounded rebel positions in the eastern Ghouta suburbs, clearing the way for soldiers and Hezbollah militants to take the iconic opposition stronghold of Deir al-Asafir and other villages.
Syrian state media, which also reported many of the advances, said the army took advantage of rebel infighting in the eastern Ghouta pocket to make its strike. Around 500 militants have been killed in three weeks of infighting.

The fighting began early on Thursday when government forces and Hezbollah fighters captured the town of Deir al-Asafir, and then seized a number of other areas nearby, closing off a pocket of rebel control in Eastern Ghouta.

Pro-opposition Orient News television reported that government forces had “taken complete control” of the southern part of Eastern Ghouta.

The region has long been held by rebels. Most of Eastern Ghouta is still in rebel hands, but Thursday’s gains could pave the way for further government and Hezbollah advances there.

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