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Syrian troops take control of strategic town

Syrian troops have taken full control of a town near the highway linking the capital Damascus with Jordan, a new advance in the regime's campaign to drive rebels from the strategic south, an activist group said Monday.

Rebels seeking to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad are trying to carve a pathway from the Jordanian border through the southern province of Daraa, in what is seen as their best shot at capturing Damascus.

A few weeks ago, they scored significant gains, but have since suffered setbacks in a regime counteroffensive.

In recent days, regime troops and rebel fighters battled over Khirbet Ghazaleh, a town near the Damascus-Jordan highway.

Regime forces retook Khirbet Ghazaleh on Sunday and rebels withdrew from the area, said Rami Abdul-Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Troops reopened the highway, restoring the supply line between Damascus and the contested provincial capital of Daraa, he said. Regime forces were carrying out raids and searching homes in Khirbet Ghazaleh on Monday.

Damascus, still overwhelmingly under regime control, is the ultimate prize in a largely deadlocked civil war.

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