Middle East

Syrian government forces wave the national flag in Deir al-Adas in the Daraa province on February 11, 2015 after President Bashar al-Assad's army, backed by Hezbollah and Iranian officers, pushed rebels out of the area  (Illustrative)
Russia FM Lavrov: our strikes have helped 'turn around' situation in Syria

Syrian pro-government forces captured a strategic southern rebel town close to the Jordanian border after weeks of fighting, a monitor said on Tuesday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said regime troops and allied militia including fighters from Lebanon's Hezbollah movement and Iranian officers "seized control of Sheikh Miskeen" overnight with the help of Russian and Syrian government air strikes.

The town, in Daraa province, lies on a vital crossroads between Damascus to the north and the government-controlled city of Sweida to the east.

It is 12 kilometres (seven miles) from the rebel stronghold of Nawa, another key target for regime forces.

A security source had told AFP the Sheikh Miskeen was a "launching pad" for rebel operations, and one of the opposition's "centres of gravity for the whole of Daraa province".

He said seizing control of the town would sever a rebel supply route to areas under opposition control around Damascus.

Last month, government troops captured the Brigade 82 base outside the town, and they have since been pushing to capture Sheikh Miskeen.

Most of Daraa province is controlled by opposition forces, though the government holds parts of the provincial capital and a few villages in the northwest.

Russian strikes have helped 'turn around' Syria: Lavrov

Air strikes by the Russian military in support of forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have helped turn the tide on the situation in Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday.

"The actions of the Russian air force, in response to the request of the Syrian leadership -- have really helped to turn around the situation in the country, helped towards reducing the territory controlled by terrorists," Lavrov said at his main annual press conference.

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