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Turkey-backed rebels regain key Syrian town of Saraqeb - opposition

AMMAN - Syrian rebels backed by the Turkish military have recaptured the strategic town of Saraqeb, the first significant reverse for the Syrian army in a Russian-backed offensive that had made swift gains, the rebels said on Thursday.
Three weeks ago, the armed opposition lost the northwestern town situated at the junction of two main highways, following advances by the Syrian army in its bid to retake the last large rebel-held region in Syria after nine years of war.Nearly a million Syrians have been displaced by the latest fighting.
"The city of Saraqeb has been liberated completely from Assad's gangs," Naji Mustafa, a spokesman for a Turkey-backed coalition of rebel factions, the National Liberation Front, said in a statement, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Other rebel sources confirmed the advance.
Ankara has sent thousands of troops and truckloads of equipment into Syria's northwest corner bordering Turkey to back the rebels, and President Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to push back Assad's forces.
After the capture of the town, the government had declared fully open the M5 highway, Syria’s main north-south artery, linking the capital of Damascus and its second largest city of Aleppo.
Saraqeb lies at the junction of another highway west to the Mediterranean. Opening major highways in rebel hands to revive a shattered war economy has been a key goal of the Russian-led campaign.
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