Syrian army enters rebel-held Yabrud
Published Saturday, March 15, 2014
Syrian soldiers entered eastern districts of the town of Yabrud, 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 Yabrud."
Gunfire could be heard as the soldiers advanced.
Capturing Yabrud 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.
Thousands of people fled Yabrud, a town of an estimated 40,000-50,000 people roughly 60 kilometers 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 100,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million have fled abroad as refugees in a civil war which began with mass street protests against Assad in March 2011 but turned into an armed insurgency after a crackdown on demonstrators.