Syrian forces consolidate Yabroud, continue advance

Syrian forces consolidate Yabroud, continue advance
Mon Mar 17, 2014 13:31:38

Syrian army forces have seized total control of the strategic town of Yebroud near its border with Lebanon after liberating it from foreign-backed insurgents that used the key town as a major supply line for bringing in and distributing arms to other militants within Syria.

The liberation of Yabroud on Sunday immediately emboldened government forces to attack nearby rebel-held towns, pressing forward in what has been nearly a yearlong advance against the foreign-sponsored insurgents fighting to overthrow the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Yabroud also served as an important supply line for al-Qaeda-linked militants into Lebanon to conduct terrorist bombings.

The town further overlooks a key highway from Damascus to the central city of Homs.

Meanwhile, Syrian state television reported that their military forces were engaged in removing booby traps and bombs and hunting down insurgent holdouts across Yabroud.

“Our armed forces are now chasing the remnants of the terrorist gangs in the area,” said a uniformed soldier reading a statement on Syrian television. “This new achievement ... cuts supply lines and tightens the noose around terrorist strongholds remaining in the Damascus countryside,” the soldier said.

Gunfire and clashes could be heard on footage broadcast live by the Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen and Hezbollah station Al-Manar. It showed troops walking through deserted streets.

Syrian soldiers sat in the streets after seizing the town in fierce clashes with the support of battle-hardened fighters from Lebanon’s prominent Hezbollah resistance movement.

According to Abu Akram, a Syrian army officer in Yabroud, government troops now intend to take over Flita and Rankous, two insurgent-held villages on the road to Lebanon. The fall of Yabroud came about after groups of foreign-backed militants started fleeing toward Rankous.

According to an al-Nusra element in Yabroud, cited in local press reports, most of the insurgent forces made a surprise withdrawal from the town, while the so-called jihadists stayed back and fought alone through early Sunday.

Anti-Damascus activists, meanwhile, stated that the insurgents planned to drag Syrian forces into street-to-street battle, where they believed they had an advantage.

However, a rebel coalition spokesman said the armed militants quickly fled the hills that overlook Yabroud before Syrian army troops entered the town. He further reiterated that other rebel forces later fled the town overnight, collapsing the ranks of fighters.

“There’s no doubt Yabroud had big strategic importance,” said the rebel spokesman as quoted in local press reports. “This will make it easier for the regime to occupy other nearby villages,” referring to Syria’s government forces.

He also admitted that the biggest immediate loss to the insurgents would be that they now had no way of supplying fellow militants in rural Damascus where Syrian forces have surrounded a series of rebel-held areas.

Yabroud’s fall comes a day after the third anniversary of the foreign-sponsored crisis in Syria, which has killed as estimated 130,000 people.

Meanwhile, the U.N. refugee agency says nine million Syrians have so far been forced from their homes, creating the world’s largest displaced population.


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