Syrian forces enter rebel stronghold near Lebanese border: TV

Last Updated: Saturday, March 15, 2014 - 15:23

Beirut: 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 advanced.
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 Aleppo in the north and to the Mediterranean coast in the west, a stronghold of Assad`s minority Alawite sect.

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

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 enters its fourth year this month.
More than 140,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million have fled abroad as refugees in an increasingly sectarian civil which began with mass street protests against Assad in March 2011 but turned into an armed insurgency after a crackdown on demonstrators.

Reuters

First Published: Saturday, March 15, 2014 - 15:23

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