Twenty militants killed as Hezbollah advances in Zabadani
A Hezbollah fighter takes aim in the region of Qalamoun near the Syrian border town of Zabadani. (Twitter)
At least 20 Syrian militants, including a local commander, were killed overnight as Hezbollah and the Syrian army made new gains in Zabadani near the border with Lebanon, Lebanese security sources and Al-Manar TV said Monday.
Two Hezbollah fighters, Hasan Habashman from Baalbek and Mohammad Ghoraib from south Lebanon, were killed in the battles, a security source said.
Al-Manar said the new gains put the Syrian army-Hezbollah alliance on the “path to victory.”
“Some militants disappeared, and others are surrendering to the alliance,” it said, adding that “Hezbollah and the Syrian army seized a military operations room that belongs to the militants.”
The security source told The Daily Star that five members of the Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham were among the dead. They were killed as the Syrian army and Hezbollah advanced deeper into Zabadani, taking control of the border city’s western neighborhoods, as well as Zahraa, to the northwest.
Ahrar al-Sham’s local field commander Abu Ali Srour was also killed, the sources added. They said Hezbollah also ambushed 15 militants trying to flee Zabadani into the Lebanese border village of Tfail.
Meanwhile, fighting continued in Foua and Kefraya, both government-held Shiite towns located in the northwestern Idlib province, days after a truce expired to halt fighting in the two villages and Zabadani.
Al-Manar said that pro-government local fighters targeted a tank belonging to militants with rockets.
The militants and the alliance agreed last week to a three-day cease-fire which ended Saturday. The cease-fire, brokered by Iran and Turkey, stated that Hezbollah and the Syrian army would halt their attacks on Zabadani in exchange for the rebels halting their offensive on Kefraya and Foua and allowing in supplies.
The Syrian army has long sought to wrest control of Zabadani from the rebels who have held it since 2012, a year after the war broke out.
Hezbollah and the Syrian army stepped up their military push to retake Zabadani Sunday after a temporary truce between the two sides expired and no new cease-fire was agreed. Security sources said the allied forces advanced under cover of artillery and rocket fire in the Zahran neighborhood, in the western part of the city, after engaging the rebels in close-quarters combat.