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First Syrians return to liberated border town

Nearly a week after they were forced to flee, hundreds of Syrians have returned to Tal Abyad. The town was wrestled from Islamic State militants by Kurdish Forces, cutting off a major supply route.

Hundreds of Syrian refugees have arrived back in the border town of Tal Abyad, a day after it was liberated from "Islamic State" (IS) militants.

Around 200 men, women and children crossed over the Turkish border post of Akcakale, many carrying the few belongings they had escaped with.

On Tuesday, fighters from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and Syrian rebels took complete control of the town. But before civilians could return, the YPG combed the town for mines and booby-trapped cars.

Reports say the two-pronged attack against IS militants began on June 11, backed by US-led airstrikes.

Tal Abyad was a key target for the Kurds as it is a vital supply line to Islamic State's de-facto capital, Raqqa.

The capture of the town is likely to weaken the jihadists' ability to bring in fighters and ammunition. It also cuts off a smuggling route for black market oil, which IS militants have plundered from captured oil fields.

Around 23,000 Syrians have been displaced by the recent Kurdish advance. After gathering for several days at the border fence, Turkey eventually granted permission for them to enter the country.

Elsewhere, at least 18 people were killed in the Damascus region on Wednesday after the Syrian military besieged a rebel-held town and rebels fired rockets into the capital.

Meanwhile the Free Syrian Army began a major offensive in southern Syria, according to the Reuters news agency.

A rebel spokesman said they planned to capture the last few positions in Quneitra province, close to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported fierce battles between the Syrian military and insurgent groups in northern Quneitra.

mm/ng (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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