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Syrian forces take control of key town near Damascus

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Syrian pro-government forces flash the "V" for victory sign on April 4, 2016 in al-Qaryatain, a town in the province of Homs in central Syria, after Syrian troops regained control of the town from terrorists of the Daesh group the previous day. (AFP photo)

Syrian government forces, backed by Lebanese Hezbollah fighters, have retaken a strategic town near Damascus from foreign-backed Takfiri militants, a UK-based monitoring group says.

Government troops and their allies took Deir al-Asafir in Eastern Ghouta suburbs southeast of Damascus on Thursday after a fierce battle, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The town's capture closed off a pocket of militant control in Eastern Ghouta, observatory director Rami Abdulrahman said. 

It could pave the way for further government advances in the region that has long been held by a number of Takfiri groups.

Abdulrahman said Hezbollah fighters played a key role in the assault which took place near to where the group's top military commander in Syria was recently killed in a Takfiri shellfire.

Hundreds of families were fleeing the area because of the intensity of the fighting, the Observatory said.

Government forces and their allies have made some advances in Eastern Ghouta recently while terrorist groups in the area have fought among themselves.

Meanwhile, Syrian army troops repelled a counterattack by al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front militants in the Hama province, the Russian Defense Ministry said.  

The terrorists used tanks and mortars to attack army positions near the populated district of Marj-Sultan, it said. 

Nusra militants also shelled areas in Aleppo and three other Syrian provinces, the Russian center for reconciliation of opposing sides in Syria said.

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