Syrian troops advance in rebel-held region near capital

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Syrian troops advance in rebel-held region near capital
Map of eastern Ghouta, Syria.; 2c x 2 1/2 inches; 96.3 mm x 63 mm;

BEIRUT (AP) — Syria’s state media and activists say troops and allied militias have captured a number of villages and towns in a rebel-held region near the capital, in the largest advance since a wide-scale offensive began last month.

Syria’s Central Military Media says government forces captured at least six villages and towns along the edge of eastern Ghouta. Rebel groups launched a counteroffensive Sunday, sending fighters behind government lines in a series of attacks. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the rebels regained control of at least one town, while fighting continues.

Eastern Ghouta, home to some 400,000 people, has been under a crippling siege and daily bombardment for months. No civilians have exited through a humanitarian corridor set up by Russia and the Syrian government nearly a week ago.