BEIRUT

Middle East

Fighting rages on 30th day of Yabroud battles

Soldiers loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad stand with members of the media at Al-Sahl town, about 2km (a mile) to Yabroud's north, after the soldiers took control of it from the rebel fighters, in this March 3, 2014 handout photograph distributed by Syria's national news agency SANA. (REUTERS/SANA/Handout via Reuters)

BEIRUT: Fierce clashes raged Thursday near the rebel stronghold of Yabroud as regime forces and its allies fought rebel groups, with anti-regime activists saying the rebels were holding out after one month of a stepped-up offensive in the mountainous Qalamoun region.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that two rebels were killed in the clashes on the outskirts of the town, which was also targeted by a surface-to-surface missile as well as artillery shelling.

The anti-regime Qalamoun Media Center said Hezbollah fighters, who are backing up Syrian army troops and paramilitaries, launched a number of Volcano rockets at the town, causing massive destruction.

The Observatory and the media center said a number of surface-to-surface missiles also targeted Yabroud, but no casualties were reported. Most of the town’s 30,000 inhabitants have fled the area.

The Qalamoun activists said four rebel fighters were killed in clashes further south, in the Wadi Barada region, but added that rebel forces had managed to withstand the regime’s “scorched earth” policy of causing massive destruction in the Qalamoun region.

They said that three army officers were among those killed in the Yabroud clashes.

Fighting between regime troops and rebel units raged in the city of Aleppo, and activists from the city said 10 “barrel bombs” dropped by helicopter targeted the province – two in Aleppo and eight on two rural locations. Four civilians were killed in the strikes, they said.

Fighting raged in the Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood and in the Sheikh Najjar industrial zone on the edge of the city, as regime forces were backed by Hezbollah fighters, the Observatory said. Airstrikes targeted the outskirts of the Aleppo central prison, which is being blocked by a number of Islamist militias, but no casualties were reported.

In Hama province, fighting continued to rage near the town of Morek, which lies on the highway leading to Aleppo. The Observatory said regime troops fired a surface-to-surface missile at the town, which was recently seized by the rebels.

In the eastern province of Hassakeh, the Observatory said clashes broke out early Thursday pitting regime paramilitaries against Kurdish fighters in the city of Qamishli.

The fighting erupted after a National Defense paramilitary shot to death a Kurdish fighter, prompting a counter-attack by the Kurdish PYD militia.

The Observatory said the National Defense paramilitaries suffered an unspecified number of casualties in the fighting.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 14, 2014, on page 8.

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Summary

Fierce clashes raged Thursday near the rebel stronghold of Yabroud as regime forces and its allies fought rebel groups, with anti-regime activists saying the rebels were holding out after one month of a stepped-up offensive in the mountainous Qalamoun region.

The Qalamoun activists said four rebel fighters were killed in clashes further south, in the Wadi Barada region, but added that rebel forces had managed to withstand the regime's "scorched earth" policy of causing massive destruction in the Qalamoun region.

In the eastern province of Hassakeh, the Observatory said clashes broke out early Thursday pitting regime paramilitaries against Kurdish fighters in the city of Qamishli.


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