Syria's army said Sunday it had recaptured the strategic town of Kasab and the only border crossing with Turkey in Latakia province, after it fell to rebels almost three months ago.
"After crushing many members of the mercenary terrorist gangs... units of our armed troops in collaboration with the (paramilitary) National Defence Force returned safety and security to Kasab this morning," an army statement said.
Kasab, an Armenian town, is important because it is at the only border crossing with Turkey in sensitive Latakia province, heartland of the Alawite sect from which President Bashar al-Assad hails.
On Sunday, a state television reporter broadcast a stand-up from the recaptured border crossing. The channel accused rebel backers Ankara and Doha of providing "terrorists" (rebels) with ambulances to transport their wounded.
Activists and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights say Kasab was retaken a day after rebels including members of Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front withdrew without a fight, leaving only a small number of men behind.
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As they pulled back, Assad's troops backed by other pro-regime groups, among them Lebanon's powerful Hezbollah, advanced on the nearby village of Nabaein.
By Sunday, the Britain-based Observatory said, pro-regime forces were back in control of Kasab -- the first time since it fell on March 21.
Aside from Hezbollah fighters, the government forces, led by members of Syria's elite Republican Guard, had been boosted by Iranian troops, the Observatory said.
Rebels were short on supplies and experienced Hezbollah fighters and Syrian special forces were able to advance, its director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
Under frequent bombardment by government forces, Kasab was important for rebels who used it as a staging post to transport their wounded to Turkey, which backs the opposition.
The Syrian government had accused Ankara of helping rebel groups to seize Kasab.