Syrian army, Hezbollah purge militants from the Qalamoun Mountains
Syrian regime forces check a tank on May 9, 2015 in Assal al-Ward, a small regime-controlled village situated on the mountain of al-Kanissa in the Qalamoun region. (AFP/File)
Syrian government forces backed by fighters from the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah have managed to drive militants out of an area in the strategic Qalamoun region, north of Damascus and along the border with neighboring Lebanon.
On Saturday, the joint forces established full control over the Jibba Barrens district, and destroyed a number of vehicles rigged with explosives that the terrorists were planning to use in order to target the Lebanese territories.
Hezbollah fighters and Syrian army soldiers also regained control of a crossing that links Jibba Barrens to the recently liberated Assal al-Ward area.
Meanwhile, Syrian army troops have killed at least 20 militants as they engaged members of the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front in Joroud al-Jabbah district of Qalamoun.
A senior militant commander, known by his nom de guerre Housh al-Arab, was killed during the cleanup operations.
Syrian government forces also seized control of a military base in the area, and secured the road linking Damascus to the Lebanese capital, Beirut.
Over the past days, Syrian troops have made advances toward the northwestern town of Jisr al-Shughur, located about 330 kilometers (205 miles) north of the capital, Damascus, where some 250 soldiers and their families are trapped by the militants in a hospital.
The Syrian army is now within two kilometers of the hospital.
Jisr al-Shughur reportedly fell into the hands of the militants, including those from the al-Nusra Front, some two weeks ago.
In Aleppo, another militant mortar attack
In a separate incident, at least five civilians were killed and 19 others injured in a mortar attack by the militants against a residential area in the northwestern city of Aleppo, the hotbed of clashes between the Syrian forces and rebels.
A police source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a mortar shell landed on Saturday in the Salahuddin neighborhood of the city, located about 355 kilometers (220 miles) north of Damascus, Syria’s official SANA news agency reported.
In the capital itself, a similar attack struck the al-Zablatani neighborhood, wounding eight people.
Cities and towns across Syria have frequently witnessed bombings as well as mortar and rocket attacks by militants since crisis erupted in the country more than four years ago.
Furthermore, two civilians lost their lives and ten others sustained injuries when a bomb explosion ripped through a bus on a road linking Syria’s central city of Hama, located 213 kilometers (132 miles) north of Damascus, to Aleppo.
Violence fueled by Takfiri groups has so far claimed the lives of over 222,000 people in Syria.
Over 3.8 million Syrians have left their country since March 2011, the beginning of the turmoil. More than 7.2 million Syrians have also become internally displaced, according to the United Nations.
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