Syrian forces deal heavy blow to rebels in border area

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The Syrian army forces have scored new progress against the radical rebel groups in a contested Syrian city near the Lebanese borders, the state news agency SANA reported Tuesday.

At least five rebels were killed Tuesday as a result of the military operation by the Syrian army backed by the Lebanese Hezbollah against the rebels in the Zabadani city, north of the capital Damascus and close to the Lebanese borders.

A military source said an army unit dealt a heavy blow to the positions of the rebels in central Zabadani, just a day after the troops captured areas in the southern part of that city.

The military forces and Hezbollah also detonated a 350 meters-long tunnel the rebels were using in southern Zabadani. The army also cut off the road between Zabadani and the nearby Madaya town, another hotbed for the rebels.

The wide-scale offensive on Zabadani, in the western part of the rugged Qalamoun region north of the capital Damascus, came after the Syrian forces and allied fighters tightened the siege on the rebels there earlier this month.

The battle aimed at clearing the city and the entire region of Qalamoun of the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front and its allied militants, who used the city as a conduit to smuggle militants and weapons from Lebanon into the western countryside of Damascus.

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