BEIRUT (Reuters) – The Syrian army has taken full control of a formerly insurgent-held area northeast of Damascus, Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV said on Thursday, strengthening President Bashar al-Assad’s grip on territory around the capital.
The area – Adra al-Omalia – is around 30 km (19 miles) from central Damascus but far from parts of Syria where the United States has launched air strikes against Islamic State militants.
“The Syrian Army takes full control of the town of Adra al-Omalia in the eastern countryside of Damascus,” al-Manar said in a news flash.
Assad’s forces, backed by the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah, have been gradually extending control over a corridor of territory from Damascus to the Mediterranean coast this year, seizing towns and villages along the main north-south highway and in the mountainous Qalamoun along the Lebanese border.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict, said at least 29 people – 18 of them rebel fighters – died during fighting on Wednesday between insurgents and government forces in the outskirts of Damascus.
The US-led airstrikes that started on Tuesday have concentrated on northern and eastern Syria.