Rebels reportedly take key Syrian city

The Syrian opposition took control of the city of Dael in southern Syria on Friday, according to rebel fighters, a significant victory in a city that lies on a strategic highway near Jordan's border.

The reported capture of Dael, which has a population of approximately 45,000 people, comes less than a month after the opposition took control of Raqqah in northern Syria. Bashar al-Assad's forces launched a counterattack in Raqqah with aerial bombing and shelling, but rebels were able to maintain control of the city, the Washington Post reports.

The capture of Dael would represent a major step for the rebels, as the opposition had yet to establish a solid southern foothold in the war-torn country. The takeover could signal a push by the opposition to take larger portions of southern Syria.

"The Free Syrian Army attacked the city because of its important position," a spokesman for the rebel force in Daraa who uses the alias Ahmed Rayes said, according to the Washington Post. "There was fierce resistance and clashes with the regime army."

Dael is 58 miles south of Damascus, 13 miles north of the Jordanian border and approximately 18 miles east of Syria's border with Israel in the Golan Heights. According to activists and fighters, rebels engaged in fierce clashes with government troops at three checkpoints in Dael.

At least 16 rebel fighters and 12 army troops died during the confrontation. At least 70,000 Syrians have perished during the overall conflict, the Washington Post reports.