BEIRUT — An airstrike near the Syrian capital on Friday killed top rebel commander Zahran Allouch, the head of one of the most powerful Saudi-backed insurgent groups fighting against President Bashar Assad’s government near the seat of his power Damascus, opposition activists said.

Allouch’s death a month before expected peace talks between government and opposition representatives in Geneva is a blow to insurgents fighting to topple Assad and a boost to government forces who have been bolstered by the Russian military intervention in Syria in the past few months.

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Syrian rebel leader killed in airstrike near Damascus