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Syria army in final drive for full control over Zabadani

Syrian forces and fighters of the Lebanese resistance movement, Hezbollah, have inched closer on pockets of militants in the border town of Zabadani, with some reports suggesting they are hours from declaring the strategic area as safe.

The Arabic-language al-Alam said Tuesday that the allied forces managed to retake two key neighborhoods from the militants in western parts of Zabadani, a town located about 50 kilometers (31 miles) northwest of the capital, Damascus.

The report said Syrian forces and Hezbollah fighters seized full control of al-Zahra and the Harrah al-Gharbiah, forcing the militants to either surrender or flee to the plains outside Zabadani.

Scores of militants from the al-Qaeda-backed Nusra Front and the terrorist group calling itself Ahrar al-Sham were killed during the offensive. Other reports said five members of Ahrar al-Sham also surrendered to the Syrian soldiers.

Hezbollah’s official TV al-Manar said, however, that the allied forces have taken control of almost the entire Zabadani, saying they are hours from declaring the town safe. Manar said the liberation of al-Zahra and Harrah was the most difficult part of the battle for Zabadani as the neighborhoods were impenetrable due to their compact civilian architecture and narrow alleys.

Manar also said only 2.5 square kilometers from Zabadani remain under the control of militants.

Lebanon’s al-Ahd news website also quoted Walid Sakariya, a senior pro-Hezbollah legislator in the Lebanese parliament, as saying that Zabadani is “technically recaptured” and that from the military point of view, Syria and Hezbollah forces are in control of the town.

Syrian sources also said the army began shelling militant positions in the southern outskirts of Zabadani, saying the battle is nearing its end.

A highly strategic town in Syria’s Rif Dimashq Province, Zabadani has been a major stronghold of militant groups. Control over the town would entirely cut off the supply lines used by the militants for transferring ammunition and forces into areas near Damascus, while it also secures the highway connecting the Syrian capital to Beirut in Lebanon.

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