News / Middle East

Syrian Forces Enter Last Rebel Bastion Near Lebanese Border

In this photo, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, a Syrian rebel looks through his binocular at one of the frontline of Yabroud town, the last rebel stronghold in Syria's mountainous Qalamoun region, Mar. 13, 2014. (Photo taken and provided by Local Comity of Yabroud Town)
In this photo, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, a Syrian rebel looks through his binocular at one of the frontline of Yabroud town, the last rebel stronghold in Syria's mountainous Qalamoun region, Mar. 13, 2014. (Photo taken and provided by Local Comity of Yabroud Town)
Syrian soldiers entered eastern districts of the town of Yabroud, the last rebel bastion near the Lebanese border north of Damascus, on Saturday and advanced towards the main street, Al Mayadeen television said.

The Beirut-based station broadcast footage showing soldiers charging through a field towards an arched entrance of the town and a sign saying “Welcome to Yabroud”. Gunfire could be heard as the soldiers proceeded.

Capturing Yabroud would help President Bashar al-Assad choke off a cross-border rebel supply line from Lebanon. The town is near the highway linking Damascus to the former commercial hub of Aleppo in the north and to the Mediterranean coast in the west, where Assad's minority Alawite community is concentrated.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said the government was pounding some districts of Yabroud with improvised barrel bombs and shelling its outskirts.

The anti-Assad Observatory said heavy fighting was going on between government forces supported by Lebanese Shi'ite militant group Hezbollah and rebel factions including the Nusra Front, al-Qaida's official branch in Syria, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an al-Qaida splinter group.

Thousands of people fled Yabroud, a town of about 40,000 to 50,000 people roughly 60 km (40 miles) north of Damascus, and the surrounding areas after it was bombed and shelled last month ahead of the government offensive.

The government has been making incremental gains along the highway as well as around Damascus and Aleppo in recent months, regaining the initiative in a conflict, which began exactly three years ago.

al-Qaida-linked commander killed

A senior commander in the Nusra Front was killed late on Friday on the outskirts of Yabroud during shelling and clashes with the army and Hezbollah fighters, the Observatory said.

Abu Azzam al-Kuwaiti was the deputy leader of the Nusra Front in Qalamoun, the mountainous zone between Damascus and the Lebanese border where Yabroud is situated.

He had been a principal negotiator in the prisoner exchange last week which secured the release of 13 Greek Orthodox nuns held by the Nusra Front since December, according to the Observatory.

More than 140,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million have fled abroad as refugees in an increasingly sectarian civil war. The conflict began with mass street protests against Assad in March 2011 but turned into an armed insurgency after a violent security crackdown on demonstrators.

European Union foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, in a statement on Saturday to mark the third anniversary of the uprising, urged Assad's government to comply with a June 30 U.N. deadline to eliminate its entire chemical weapons program.

Damascus did not meet a commitment to destroy 12 chemical production facilities by March 15, after having already missed several deadlines laid out in last year's agreement.

Ashton also said the international community had a responsibility to bring the conflict to an end.

“The tragedy in Syria has no parallel in recent history. The only solution to the crisis is a political one: the establishment of a transitional governing body, and a genuine Syrian-led inclusive political process to establish a democratic and pluralistic Syria.”

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Comment Sorting
by: Haron from: Afghanistan
March 16, 2014 11:08 AM
I wish and hope to eliminate these savages [rebels] as soon as possible and Syria could be a beautiful country again. it is a shame for those countries to support anti or rebels of Syria against their country instead of supporting Syria government to build their country more than past.

by: amir dread from: NYC
March 16, 2014 11:00 AM
We all know who the terrorists and their supporters are in Syria, Libya, and everywhere else. We know who are behind the coup in Ukraine. We understand what terror is, and we see who is terrorizing whom. We keep silent because we are afraid of the terrorists.

March 15, 2014 10:55 PM
In place of giving food,education,health and good business climate, world champions of civil liberty have provided funds and weapons to world famous TERRORIST to fullfil their wish to change REGIME. How much poor syrians suffered we do not have time to read their PAINFUL AND TEAR story. We have time for drinks,dance and other bad habits, but we do not have time and money for poor peoples (CREATED BY US). We enjoy with tear and fear on their face and then we call champion of democracy.

by: meanbill from: USA
March 15, 2014 7:38 PM
THE SYRIAN WAR? ... The Syrian war would never had began if the US and EU hadn't funded and armed the anti-Assad fighters, and the foreign terrorists who joined the anti-Assad fighters, to bring their branch of Islam to Syria..
THE SYRIAN WAR would begin winding down in a month, if the US and EU would quit funding the anti-Assad fighters (terrorists), in Syria with funding and weapons, with help from their Muslim allies of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, and Turkey...
WAR should always be the last option, but the US and EU and NATO, seem to be starting all of them, or involved in there existence... (WHY?) ........ REALLY?

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