AMMAN- Forces loyal to President Bashar Assad captured a suburb of Damascus on Wednesday, part of a broader advance that has brought him major gains south of the capital before proposed international peace talks, activists said.
The fall of the rebel-held town of Hujaira, next to a Shi'ite shrine where pro-Assad militia from Iraq, Iran and Lebanon are based, occurred after loyalist forces overran a series of Sunni Muslim suburbs in the area in recent weeks defended by Islamist rebels who include al-Qaida-linked foreign jihadists.
Activist Rami al-Sayyed said fighters from the Qatar-backed Ahfad al-Rasul brigade as well as the al Qaeda affiliates al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, withdrew from Hujaira into Hajar al-Aswad, a dense neighborhood closer to the center of capital, after being pounded by artillery and air strikes for weeks.
"Southern districts that have been under rebel control for more than a year are falling one by one. There is no unified command and morale has been hit. Hajar al-Aswad and a series of towns in the hands of the resistance in the south and southwest edge of Damascus are now exposed," Sayyed said from the region.