Syrian army, backed by air strikes, advances toward southern town

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By Suleiman Al-Khalidi BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian troops backed by heavy aerial bombardment pushed toward a strategic town in southern province of Deraa on Tuesday after capturing nearby military base, the army said. The Syrian army said it retook Brigade 82, one of the largest bases north of the mainly rebel-held town of Sheikh Maskin, whose capture by rebels earlier this year threatened the army's supply routes to the south. The army offensive toward Sheikh Maskin is part of the first major assault in southern Syria since Russia launched air strikes on Sept. 30 to support its ally President Bashar al-Assad.