PHOTO: Syrian forces confirm their entry into Mleiha, east of Damascus

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Illustrating Syria’s “patchwork war”, insurgents — reeling from the advance of the jihadist Islamic State in Aleppo Province — defeated regime forces elsewhere in the country on Thursday. However, it appears that they have lost the key town of Mleiha, east of Damascus

The most significant insurgent advance was near the Hama Military Airport (pictured), where opposition fighters took the village of al-Sheyha and regime positions at Arzeh and Tal al-Sheyha, as they moved within 2-3 kilometers of the vital facility.

Insurgents are shelling the airport, key to the production of barrel bombs and transport of forces around Syria, with Grad rockets.

In a sign of possible regime weakness, insurgents and EA sources reported that the Syrian defense is increasingly made up of militia rather than regular troops. The opposition also claimed they captured two Iranian soldiers among the defenders on Thursday.

Further north in Hama Province, the insurgents continued to inflict damage on regime troops who have tried to take Morek, on the highway between Hama and Idlib and Aleppo Provinces. On Thursday they destroyed a BMP armored vehicle and killed most of the attacking force.

In the southwest, on the Lebanese border, the insurgents took two regime positions in the Qalamoun region between Al-Dmeir and al-Rehaibeh. Syrian forces took heavy losses, as did Hezbollah fighters who tried to enter Qalamoun from Lebanon’s al-Nahleh area.

The opposition also attacked militia and Hezbollah compounds in al-Jrayjir.

Earlier this week, the insurgents claimed the capture of two checkpoints and four barracks in Ras al-Maraa.

News continued to be bleak for the insurgency from Aleppo Province, where the Islamic State seized a series of towns and villages near the Turkish border as they advanced towards the key frontier town of Azaz. The jihadists are reclaiming territory that they lost soon after battles broke out with the insurgency in January, and inflicting heavy casualties along the way.

See Syria Daily, August 14: Are Insurgents Doomed in Aleppo?

The Syrian Army claimed on Thursday that it had established control over Mleiha, the “gateway” to the insurgent-held East Ghouta area near Damascus. It said victory was achieved by “decisive special operations in which the army eliminated large numbers of terrorists who were holed up in the town and had been using it as a base from which to carry out terrorist operations and attacks on civilians”.

However, the insurgency disputed the claim, with the Supreme Military Council saying that insurgents had withdrawn from some positions in the northern part of the town to support defensive lines, as the regime continued shelling and aerial bombardment.

State TV’s account of the Mleiha fighting:

AFP footage from today:

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2,000 Syrian Refugees Moved From Turkish City Into Nearby Camps After Protests By Locals

Turkish authorities moved hundreds of Syrian refugees out of the southern city of Gaziantep into camps on Thursday, after three nights of violent protests by local people.

About 2,000 Syrians from 400 families were transported on buses to the camps near the city.

“We found 400 Syrian families living in bad conditions, in abandoned buildings. We are taking control of the houses and sending them to refugee camps from now,” Gaziantep governor Erdal Ata said.

About 50 residents of Gaziantep were arrested as protests were broken up by tear gas, with about a dozen Syrian refugees wounded.

The demonstrations were sparked by the alleged murder of a Turkish landlord by his Syrian tenant. Four Syrians have been arrested on suspicion of involvement.

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