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Syrian troops capture Damascus suburb near airport

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Syrian troops pushed forward with their offensive against rebels Saturday, capturing a suburb near the Damascus international airport.

The rebel-held suburb of Ahmadiyeh was taken by government forces two days after a mortar round landed near the airport's runway and briefly disrupted flights, according to the state news agency, SANA. It said government forces killed several rebels and destroyed their hideouts in the area.

Ahmadiyeh is part of a region known as Eastern Ghouta, where government forces have been on the offensive for weeks in a move aiming to secure Assad's seat of power in the capital.

A local rebel commander who identified himself only by his nickname, Abu Hareth, for fear of government reprisals, said rebels have been firing mortar shells at the airport from the Ahmadiyeh area and came under attack by the regime late Friday. He said two rebel fighters were killed.

He added that rebels destroyed three tanks in the battle, claiming that they have acquired a small number of antitank missiles recently.

Intense clashes also continued in the northern city of Aleppo, Syria's largest city, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of activists across the county. It said regime forces tried to storm the northern neighborhoods of Achrafieh and Bani Zeid after heavy shelling with mortar rounds and tanks but failed to advance after facing resistance from rebels.

The city has been witnessing some of the worst violence in months in recent days.

Syrian troops capture Damascus suburb near airport 06/15/13 [Last modified: Saturday, June 15, 2013 9:11pm]
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