Syrian army starts crucial battle against rebels

Damascus, Feb 13: Syrian government forces have begun an operation to recapture a strategic town in central Syria, the pro-government al-Watan daily reported Thursday.

The Syrian army on Wednesday took full control of the town of Jarajir and its adjacent orchards in a bid to secure the hills that surround the strategic town of Yabrud bordering Lebanon, Xinhua reported citing the pro-government al-Watan daily.

The army has also defeated rebels in the town of Sahel, the al- Arid road, Qamieh and al-Kornish areas surrounding Yabrud, the daily said.

Yabrud, 80 km north of the capital Damascus, is a major stronghold of the armed rebels, with its location on the slopes of the mountainous Qalamoun region and its proximity to the Lebanese town of Ersal, which makes it easy for rebels to get weapons inside Syria and to seek medical treatment in Lebanon.

The town's rugged terrain and ancient caves have given the rebels cover from government air raids.

By recapturing Yabrud, Syrian government forces could take control of the international road connecting Damascus with central Homs and the coastal provinces, and deter the flow of car bombs into Lebanon, military experts said.

Yabrud's open road to Ersal has facilitated the transit of booby-trapped cars into Lebanon, where a series of suicide car bombings recently rocked the southern suburb of Beirut, the stronghold of the Shiite Hezbollah militant group.

Hezbollah's fighters are currently battling Al Qaeda-inspired rebels alongside the Syrian troops in central Syria.


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