Capitalizing on a recent influx of weapons, Syrian rebels are waging a strategic battle for the southern part of the country and seeking to secure a corridor from the Jordanian border to Damascus in preparation for an eventual assault on the capital.
On Friday, the rebels celebrated seizing full control of Dael, a key town along a main highway, after forces of President Bashar Assad's regime all but withdrew from the area.
"God is great! We are coming, Bashar!" armed fighters cried overnight Thursday after they captured the last of the military checkpoints in the town where Assad's forces had been holed up, according to amateur video posted online.
Dael is one of the bigger towns in the southern Daraa province, where the uprising against Assad began in March 2011. It has turned into a civil war in which an estimated 70,000 people have been killed.
The strategic region - known as the Houran plains, which stretch from the outskirts of the capital south into Jordan - is seen as a crucial gateway to the ultimate prize of Damascus.
Although rebels control wide areas in northern Syria that border Turkey, the Jordanian frontier is only about 60 miles from Damascus, or a third of the distance to Turkey in the north.
Rebels have established footholds in a number of Damascus suburbs but have only been able to push into limited areas in the southern and northeastern parts of the capital.