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Syria Retakes Airbase Following Rebel Advance

FILE - Fighters loyal to Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad ride on military vehicles and tanks after regaining control of Deir al-Adas, a town south of Damascus, Daraa countryside.

Syrian opposition activists say the government has retaken full control of an airbase in the south that had been seized days earlier by a Western-backed rebel group.

Southern Front Alliance fighters fled the Al-Thalaa airbase in Sweida province Friday following heavy bombardment by government forces, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Britain-based group did not provide a casualty figure, but the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said at least 100 of what it called "terrorists" were killed and dozens of armored vehicles destroyed when army units repelled several attacks on the airport.

The government denied ever losing control of the airport during the rebel offensive on Thursday, which marked the first time the insurgents had advanced into Sweida province.

Sweida is mainly made up of members of Syria's Druze minority, which adheres to a faith that is an offshoot of Islam. It has largely stayed out of the four-year civil war, but there are signs it may not be able to do so much longer.

On Wednesday, activists said at least 20 Druze villagers were killed by the the al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaida affiliate, in the northwestern province of Idlib. The attack was the deadliest on the Druze minority since the war began.

Al-Nusra fighters and other Islamist militant groups such as the Islamic State have gone on the offensive in recent weeks, raising fresh questions about whether the war had reached a turning point in favor of the rebels.

Some material for this report came from Reuters.

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