Military troops advance in northern, southern Syria

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The Syrian government troops on Saturday made new progress in the northwestern province of Aleppo and eastern countryside of the capital Damascus, according to local media reports.

The army units seized control over the strategic Aleppo Hill, west of the Industrial City of al-Sheikh Najjar in Aleppo, the state news agency SANA said. The area was considered one of the main supply lines for rebels in the eastern part of Aleppo city.

SANA said that the army also advanced in al-Ramoseh and al- Ameriah neighborhoods in Aleppo, adding that the Syrian forces continued the process of removing mines planted by the rebels in al-Breij town which the army recaptured a day earlier. The progress in al-Breij would enable the troops to secure the vicinity of the central prison of Aleppo which has been besieged by the rebels for over a year.

Aleppo, Syria's largest city and economic hub, has emerged as a main battlefield in the country's three-year-old crisis since the rebels vowed to "liberate" Aleppo from the government forces in June 2012.

Since then the clashes have been incessant, as the rebels managed to seize considerable swathes of land in Aleppo. But the government forces have recently launched an offensive to regain control of the city.

In the eastern edge of Damascus, the military troops swept through the rebel-held Mliaha town, as part of a wide-scale offensive aimed at routing the rebels in eastern fringes of Damascus, the pan-Arab al-Mayadeen TV said.

The government troops have unleashed a crushing offensive against the rebel-held towns of Jobar and Mlaiha east of Damascus in the recent weeks. The battles have raged over the past 48 hours.

The Syrian army on Saturday stormed Mlaih from all directions covered by heavy fire. Reports said that the town has almost fallen to the government troops.

The army's victory in Mlaiha would have an important impact on the battles in the countryside of Damascus, following the government troops' successive victories in the northern countryside of Damascus.

Seizing the town would also deter the rebels' mortar fire from that area against nearby government-controlled areas, such as the suburb of Jaramana, which has been plagued by daily mortar attacks from the rebels of Mliha. Tens of people have been killed in Jaramana as a result of the indiscriminate shelling.

The progress of the Syrian military came at a time when the country is bracing itself for the June 3 presidential vote.

Syria's three-year crisis has killed more than 150,000 people and forced one third of its population to leave their homes.

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