Middle East

Government aircraft pound Yabroud

Free Syrian Army fighters rest in Dourin mountain in Syria's northwestern Latakia province March 7, 2014. Picture taken March 7, 2014. (REUTERS/Alaa Khweled)

BEIRUT: Government aircraft pounded the rebel stronghold of Yabroud Sunday as clashes raged near the town, according to anti-regime activists and a monitoring group. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human rights said three rebels were killed in the fighting on the outskirts of the town, in the Danha and Rima areas.

It said at least six fighters were killed or wounded on the other side, made up of government troops, paramilitaries and fighters from Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

The Observatory said that Hezbollah has sustained more than 120 killed and wounded during the fighting, which has raged over the last several weeks.

Airstrikes and shelling by government forces struck a number of targets around Yabroud, wounding an unspecified number of people, the Observatory added.

In Aleppo, up to eight people were killed during a helicopter strike on the neighborhood of Haidarieh, while government shelling and airstrikes targeted the Masaken Hanano and Sakhour neighborhoods. Fighting between regime troops and rebel groups also raged at several locations around Greater Aleppo.

Heavy fighting was also reported in several locations in Hama province, where rebels managed to disable a regime tank, as both sides suffered fatalities, the Observatory said.

In the province of Latakia, rebel shelling was believed responsible for the deaths of two people struck by a mortar bomb and RPGs, in a rare targeting near the coastal city.

The Observatory said nine people were also wounded in the incidents, which took place north of Latakia.

Fighting also raged in the eastern province of Hassakeh, where regime troops battled militants from the Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), the Observatory said. It added that militants from ISIS detonated a car bomb and caused an unspecified number of casualties. The two Al-Qaeda affiliates are at war with each other in several provinces, but cooperate at times in eastern parts of the country such as Hassakeh.

Government forces Saturday seized a town from rebels near the Lebanese border in their latest attempt to cut off opposition fighters’ fluid supply lines from the country, state media and activists said.

Further clashes killed two rebels Sunday near the town of Zara, which had seen clashes for weeks. Rebels used the town as a base to attack pro-regime communities in the area, said pro-Syrian media and Rami Abdel-Rahman of the Observatory.

The town was one of two last strongholds for rebels along the Lebanese border leading to the city of Homs, the other being the nearby village of Al-Hosn, said another activist who identified himself as Samy al-Homsi. “Without Al-Hosn and Zara, it will be the end of the revolution to the west of Homs,” Homsi said. “It’s the only two areas left to the rebels there.”

Footage from Zara by Lebanon-based broadcaster Al-Mayadeen showed plumes of smoke billowing from houses as gunfire and artillery could be heard in the background.

An activist in Al-Hosn who uses the name Abu Marwan al-Hosni said most Zara residents fled to his city during the fighting, but at least 20 people were killed after Assad-loyal gunmen entered the town.

“Some of them were butchered inside their homes and then they set the homes on fire. Others, the tanks fired at the homes. Others were killed by snipers as they fled,” Hosni said. Activist collective the Local Coordinating Committees also reported the information, while the Observatory said an unspecified number of civilians had been killed.

Also, Al-Mayadeen reported Saturday that a Syrian cameraman working for the station in the eastern city of Deir al-Zor died while covering clashes between government forces and rebels. The station said Omar Abdel-Qadir suffered a wound in his neck and died in a hospital.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 10, 2014, on page 8.




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