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Syrian army kills 62 rebels

Assad’s forces have been heavily backed by Hezbollah to drive the rebels from the northern rural region.

A Syrian man points to a hole in his wall after his town was attacked. Picture: Rahima Essop/EWN.

BEIRUT - Sixty-two rebel fighters were killed in a Syrian army ambush at dawn on Wednesday near the town of Adra, east of Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group opposed to President Bashar al-Assad, said.

The state news agency SANA did not give a death toll for the ambush but said the rebels were from the al Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front. It said all the rebels were killed and machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades confiscated.

SANA said the "terrorists" included non-Syrians and the Observatory said that eight rebels were still unaccounted for after the attack, which happened west of an industrial area east of Adra.

Assad's forces have been on the offensive around Damascus after rebels pushed into towns and suburbs on the outskirts of the capital last year. Adra is in the Eastern Ghouta region, which has been besieged by the army for months.

More than 100,000 people have died in Syria's civil war and millions have been displaced. Protesters took to the streets in March 2011 to call for democratic reforms but were fired on by security forces, leading to an armed uprising.

The army has made efforts to secure the capital and its links to the western coast while the rebels have overrun much of the north and east.

VICTORY SHORT-LIVED

On Tuesday Syrian rebels captured a main military airport near the border with Turkey, consolidating their hold on a key supply route north of the city of Aleppo, opposition activists said.

The reported capture of the Minnig Military Airport, situated on the road between Aleppo and the Turkish city of Gaziantep, after an eight-month siege, marks an important symbolic victory for the opposition, following a string of defeats to President Bashar al-Assad's forces in central Syria, the sources said.

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