Fighting Rages Inside Key Syria Rebel Bastion of Yabrudإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Heavy clashes were underway Saturday inside the Syrian rebel bastion of Yabrud near the border with Lebanon, a Syrian military source said, a day after government troops entered the town.
Yabrud sits near key rebel supply lines stretching into Lebanon, and its fall would deal a major blow to the rebels as the war enters its fourth year.
"Fierce clashes are taking place inside the eastern neighborhoods of Yabrud," the source said, adding that "the 13 rebel chiefs leading operations are dead".
The source said there had been "very many deaths among the insurgents" in the fighting.
Syrian state television broadcast footage from a hill overlooking the town, saying "the Syrian army is progressing in the town and spreading its control over most of the areas linking Syria and Lebanon".
"The army is intensifying its strikes against the terrorist hideouts," a correspondent for the channel on the ground said, using the government's term to refer to rebels.
He reported "fierce fighting between the army and terrorist groups including Al-Nusra Front," the Syrian al-Qaida affiliate.
The Observatory said the fighting was centered on the eastern entrance to Yabrud.
"There is fierce resistance by rebels led by Al-Nusra Front, which is trying to defend the town," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
The Observatory, which relies on a network of activists and other contacts inside Syria, said regime helicopters were dropping explosives-filled barrels on the outskirts of Yabrud.
Battle-hardened Hizbullah members from Lebanon were fighting inside the town, it said.
After a month of aerial bombing and combat around the town, Hizbullah and Syrian troops have captured all the hills overlooking it.