Syrian rebels seize Assad army’s stronghold near Jordanian border

Syrian rebels seized an Assad government stronghold and a key town near the border with Jordan, ousting Syrian soldiers and allied militiamen from the region after four days of intense battles, opposition activists and rebels said on Wednesday. There was no immediate comment from the government on the reported fall of Busra Sham, a town in southern Syria known for its historical citadel and Roman amphitheater declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

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Syrian rebels seized an Assad government stronghold and a key town near the border with Jordan, ousting Syrian soldiers and allied militiamen from the region after four days of intense battles, opposition activists and rebels said on Wednesday.

There was no immediate comment from the government on the reported fall of Busra Sham, a town in southern Syria known for its historical citadel and Roman amphitheater declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

For the rebels, the townand#39s capture is a strategic gain both because of its geographical location and symbolism Busra Sham had remained firmly in the hands of President Bashar al-Assadand#39s troops throughout the four-year-old conflict and was considered to be a stronghold of pro-government forces in the southern province of Daraa It is a predominantly Sunni town with a population of some 30,000 but also has a sizable Shiite community.

The town, perched on a hill overlooking the strategic region between the southern outskirts of Damascus and Jordan, also known as the Houran plain, is some 10 kilometers to the Jordanian border

andldquoToday is a happy day, Busra al-Sham has been completely liberated,andrdquo said Ahmad Masalma, an opposition activist in Daraa He said some 10,000 rebels from various groups took part in the attack on the town, which began Saturday from three sides and ended at dawn Wednesday.

They included members of al-Qaedaand#39s branch in Syria, the Nusra Front group. He said that Syrian government forces were holed up in the citadel in the last hours before they finally withdrew, adding that no major damage was done to the citadel.

Masalma said however, that the Busra al-Sham hotel — the biggest and best known hotel in the region — and the nearby historic souks were destroyed in the fighting. The townand#39s capture was also reported by the Local Coordination Committees and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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SOURCE: Today’s Zaman