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Syria general killed in combat near Damascus

The chief of Syria's air defense forces died of wounds suffered in fighting at Mleiha, southeast of the capital

Published: Updated:

The chief of Syria's air defense forces, General Hussein Isaac, has been killed in a key battleground near Damascus, in what the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights described as an "important psychological blow" to the regime.

The general had been fighting at Mleiha, a key battleground southeast of the capital. He is of the few top-ranking officers whose deaths have been announced during Syria's three-year war, according to Agence France-Presse.

"The regime's air defense force is to face a possible U.S. attack, but in this war it is using its firepower against the rebels," Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

Mleiha has been under siege for more than a year, as the army backed by Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah has been battling to recapture the strategic rebel bastion. It has been under near-constant bombardment for more than a month, AFP reports.

The Observatory said that despite initial regime advances in Mleiha, the rebels have recovered ground, retaking several buildings around the central town hall.

While the army is squarely in control of Damascus, rebels still hold a number of towns and villages on the outskirts, despite a suffocating blockade and frequent air strikes and shelling.

(With AFP)