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Syria ‘recaptures rebel border town Yabroud’

Yabroud TV grab from pro-Syria government TV station based in Beirut, dated 15 March
Government forces had been pounding the town for weeks

The Syrian military has claimed it has recaptured Yabroud, the last rebel stronghold near the Lebanese border.

Soldiers were going through the town to root out any remaining militants, the military said in a televised address.

Government forces and Lebanese fighters from the Hezbollah group have besieged the town for weeks, as part of a battle for control of key transport routes.

More than 100,000 have been killed in the three-year conflict between rebels and President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

The government launched an offensive in mid-November to oust rebel fighters from the Qalamoun mountains near the Lebanese border.

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Three years of conflict

  • More than 100,000 killed
  • 2.5 million have fled Syria
  • 6.5 million are displaced within Syria

They recaptured the towns of Qara, Deir Attiya and Nabak, to the north-east of Yabroud along the motorway linking Damascus with the city of Homs.

In mid-February, Assad forces launched a full offensive on Yabroud, which had been controlled by the opposition for much of the three-year conflict.

“The crushing of the terrorist groups is a continuation of the successes made by the Syria army in Qalamoun,” an unnamed military spokesman said on state television.

“It completes an important circle in securing the border regions between Syria and Lebanon, and also cuts the supply roads.”

Map showing Yabroud and the Qalamoun mountains

Footage on Hezbollah’s Al Manar TV channel showed handfuls of Syrian soldiers moving through Yabroud, where the streets were otherwise deserted.

Syrian state media said government forces had killed or captured many rebel fighters.

One fighter from the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front said they had decided to pull out and were heading towards nearby villages.

But some opposition sources said the government was not yet in total control, and that some fighters from extremist groups were still in the town and were prepared to fight to the death.

The BBC’s Arab affairs editor Sebastian Usher says the government victory does not shift the effective stalemate in the fighting, but it does add to the sense that government forces are gaining momentum.

The bombardment of Yabroud and the fighting on its outskirts have forced much of its 40,000-strong population to flee, many to Lebanon.

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