Syria regime forces capture key southern rebel town: monitor

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Syrian pro-government forces have captured the strategic southern rebel town of Sheikh Miskeen, close to the Jordanian border after weeks of fighting, a monitor says

Map of Syria locating fighting between the army and rebels in the opposition-held town of Sheikh Miskeen. 45 x 47 mm (AFP Photo/Valentina Breschi)

Beirut (AFP) - 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.

At least 17 people have been killed in a double suicide bomb blast at an army checkpoint in the Syrian city of Homs, the provincial governor said.

Talal Barazi told AFP that a first suicide bomber detonated explosives while in a car at the checkpoint and a second set off another blast a few moments later.