The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) backed by fighters from the Lebanese Hezbollah broke into the southwestern city of Zabadani after only four days of unremitting clashes with Islamic rebels.
Having captured the strategic Qalaat Al-Tal (Qalaat Al-Koko) yesterday, government troops and Hezbollah fighters entered today the western outskirts of the rebel-held city. The hill has been rated ‘critical’ as it overlooks the Jamiyat district; the town’s western entrance.
On Thursday, the Syrian Army began bombing militants’ staging points using heavy artillery, aerial bombardment, rocket launchers and short-range surface-to-surface missiles. It is only on Saturday that infantry troops engaged in the battle.
The allied forces also succeeded in isolating the city from the neighboring towns of Serghaya and Madaya after cutting off the main road to the north.
The city of Zabadani, located nearly 50 km northwest of the capital Damascus and only 8 km from Lebanon’s eastern borders, has fallen to rebels in 2012 after 11-day long battle with the Syria Army. It is mainly controlled by Jabhet Al-Nusra, (al-Qaeda offshoot in Syria), and other allied factions.
Local activists reported that Al-Nusra fighters prevented the families from leaving the town, using them as human shields.
Zabadani enjoys a strategic importance for Hezbollah since it serves as the lifeline for supplying the group with Iranian and Syrian weapons.
Being the rebels’ last stronghold in Qalamoun, the fall of Zabadani will mark a sweeping victory for the Syrian Army and Hezbollah after nearly the two-month long offensive in Qalamoun.