Assad's forces advance in northern Syria towards Aleppo

November 15, 2013 21:15

BEIRUT - Forces loyal to President Bashar Assad captured on Friday the last of three towns on the south-eastern approaches of Aleppo, state television said, advancing on the city after similar gains around the capital Damascus this week.

Aleppo, Syria's commercial hub and biggest city before the uprising against Assad erupted in 2011, has been partly held by Sunni rebels and foreign jihadi fighters for more than a year.

But Assad's army, backed by Shi'ite Lebanese Hezbollah officers and Iraqi militias, has been regaining territory around Aleppo and Damascus to the south, strengthening the president's hand ahead of proposed, but long-delayed, peace talks in Geneva.

The town is the third on the road to Aleppo to be taken by Assad's forces this month after the capture of Safira, close to a former chemical weapons site, and Tel Arn.

Its capture helps secure army control south of Aleppo airport, which has been closed to most civilian flights since rebels fired at a plane last year, just a week after soldiers drove rebels from a base on the airport's northern perimeter.

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