The Associated Press reports: Syrian troops captured a contested suburb of Damascus on Wednesday as the government forged ahead with a punishing military offensive that already has taken four other opposition strongholds south of the capital, state media said.
For more than a year, much of the belt of neighborhoods and towns just south of Damascus has been a rebel bastion and a key arms conduit for the opposition. But government forces — bolstered by fighters from Lebanon’s Shiite militant Hezbollah group and Shiite militants from Iraq — have made significant headway in recent weeks in the area as President Bashar Assad pushes to shore up his hold on the capital and its doorstep.
The recent government advances also could give Assad’s government a stronger position in proposed peace talks that the United States and Russia have been trying to convene since May.
The town of Hejeira on Wednesday became the latest rebel-held suburb to fall into government hands. The SANA state news agency said the army seized control of the town, but was still battling rebels on the outskirts.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights activist group confirmed that government forces were in control of most of Hejeira, but said there were still small pockets of resistance. [Continue reading…]