AMMAN | Iraqi and Lebanese Shi’ite militia backed by Syrian army firepower overran a southern suburb of Damascus on Wednesday, opposition activists said, in a blow to Sunni Muslim rebels trying to hold onto strategic outskirts of the capital.
At least 20 rebels were killed when Hezbollah guerrillas and Iraqi militiamen captured the town of Sheikh Omar under cover of Syrian army artillery and tank fire and aerial bombardment, the activists said, with tens of Shi’ite fighters killed or wounded.
Sheikh Omar sits between two highways leading south of Damascus that are crucial to supplying President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in the provinces of Deraa and Sweida on the border with Jordan.
Syria’s 2-1/2 year war has killed more than 120,000 people and forced millions from their homes into sprawling refugee camps in neighboring countries.
It began with peaceful demonstrations against four decades of iron rule by the Assad family. With regional powers backing opposing sides in the conflict and Russia blocking Western efforts to force Assad aside, there is little sign of an end to the bloodshed.
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