Syrian Army, Hezbollah Besiege Rebels

Syrian Army, Hezbollah Besiege RebelsSyrian Army, Hezbollah Besiege Rebels

The Syrian Army and Lebanese group Hezbollah said they had launched a major ground and air assault on the rebel-held Syrian city of Zabadani on Saturday and were closing in on the insurgents holed up inside.

The army, alongside Hezbollah, has long sought to wrest control of Zabadani from rebels. The city is near the Lebanese border, and the Beirut-Damascus highway that links the countries, and capturing it would be a major strategic gain for the Syrian government, Reuters reported.

Footage released on al-Manar TV and Syrian state TV showed large plumes of fire rising from the city, while the sounds of aerial bombardment and heavy artillery shelling could be heard.

The once popular resort city, northwest of the capital Damascus, is one of the rebels’ last strongholds along the border.

The Syrian Army said it had inflicted heavy casualties on the militant groups fortified inside the city and was advancing from several fronts toward their positions.

The rebels said they had planted mines around the city, which is now mostly deserted, and were well-prepared to repel the assault.

The Syrian military and pro-government fighters have regularly clashed with insurgents in the mountainous area north of the capital, and violence from the four-year-old civil war has regularly spilled over into Lebanon.