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Syrian activists seize key city

| Friday, March 29, 2013, 7:00 p.m.

Rebels took control of the city of Dael in southern Syria on Friday, according to activists and rebel fighters, a notable victory for the opposition in a conflict that has left at least 70,000 Syrians dead.

Dael sits along a strategic highway that connects Damascus to Jordan, about 13 miles from the city.

A few weeks ago, rebels seized the city of Raqqah in northern Syria. Jabhat al-Nusra, a religious extremist group that the United States has blacklisted for its links to al-Qaida, played a key role in the battle for Raqqah. But the group, also known as the al-Nusra Front, and other extremist organizations were not involved in the takeover of Dael, according to rebel fighters.

Rebels have been able to capture and hold large swaths of territory in northern and eastern Syria but have yet to establish a solid foothold in the south. Taking over Dael could signal a rebel push to make larger inroads in the southern portion of the country.

Rebel fighters launched the offensive to take over Dael because of its key location, and they engaged in fierce clashes with government troops at three checkpoints around the city, according to opposition activists and fighters. One video posted online shows a smoking tank with its turret blown off, surrounded by buildings damaged in fighting.

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