BEIRUT

Middle East

Six dead in Syria raids on Yabroud: activists

Pro-government fighters walk in front of the body of an alleged rebel fighter in the village of al-Sahel, near the rebel held town of Yabroud, nearly 80 kilometres north of Damascus, on March 4, 2014. AFP PHOTO/ STR

BEIRUT: Syrian helicopter gunships killed at least six people Friday when they dropped barrel bombs on the strategic rebel stronghold of Yabroud, close to the Lebanese border, a monitor said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attacks followed a string of raids by regime war planes around the town, which the army is trying to recapture.

The raids came a day after loyalists backed by Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite movement, killed at least 17 Islamist fighters in the battle for Yabroud.

State news agency SANA said army forces carried out a string of operations in Yabroud and its environs on Friday.

The offensive is aimed at securing the Damascus-Homs highway and severing a key rebel supply line to the town of Arsal in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley.

Hezbollah says car bombs used to attack it inside Lebanon originate in the Yabroud area and are driven to their targets via Arsal, a Sunni town where support for the Syrian uprising runs high.

In Lebanon, the army said three rockets fired from Syria struck near the towns of Labweh and Nabi Othman, where Hezbollah wields influence, but caused no injuries.

The jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) claimed on Twitter responsibility for the rocket fire, which it said was in response to the operation against Yabroud.

In central Homs, the Observatory reported at least 14 air strikes against the areas of Zara and Hosn, while fighting in central Hama province killed 14 loyalists and nine rebels dead.

The forces were killed in fighting for the town of Morek, which is on a key army supply route and was seized by rebels a month ago.

In the northeast, clashes erupted between government forces and ISIL after midnight around the regime's Base 17 camp near Raqqa, the Observatory said.

More than 140,000 people have been killed in Syria since the start of a March 2011 uprising against the Assad family's 40-year rule.

The revolt began as a peaceful protest but escalated into a civil war after the regime launched a brutal crackdown on dissent.

 

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