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Beirut (AFP) Nov 10, 2012
The Syrian army has recaptured part of the key highway linking the capital Damascus to main battlefields in the country's north, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday.
Regime forces had "gradually advanced over the past 10 days to regain control of several villages that fell in (early) October to the rebels to the west of the Damascus-Aleppo highway," Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Britain-based Observatory, told AFP by phone.
The army recaptured a stretch of the highway from the rebels, but had so far failed to enter the Idlib province town of Maaret al-Numan, said Abdel Rahman.
The battle for the town has intensified after soldiers in the besieged nearby military base of Wadi Deif recently received supplies of food and ammunition, he added.
After days of fierce fighting, the rebels took control of Maaret al-Numan on October 9, and cut off the highway two days later, choking the flow of troops to the north.
The opposition forces have since been laying siege to the Wadi Deif base, the largest military facility of its kind in the northwestern province that borders Turkey.
Syria's army uses the highway to send reinforcements to the commercial hub of Aleppo, which since mid-July has been one of the main focuses of the country's nearly 20-month civil war.
Turkish military helicopter crashes, 17 dead: governor
"Our helicopter hit a hill due to unfavourable weather conditions caused by a thick fog and heavy rains," Siirt province governor Ahmet Aydin said, according to the Anatolia news agency.
The Sikorsky chopper was transporting troops to Siirt's Pervari district, where the Turkish army has been engaged in a land operation against Kurdish rebels for three days, security sources told AFP.
The crash was not related to the clashes in the area, the governor said.
Last month a Sikorsky helicopter crashed in southeastern Diyarbakir province after it hit power lines, killing one soldier and wounding seven.
The Sikorsky choppers are frequently used to transport troops in southeast Turkey, where members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) have been waging a war for autonomy since 1984.
About 45,000 people, most of them Kurdish, have been killed in the fighting with the PKK, considered a terrorist organisation by Ankara and much of the international/ community.