DAMASCUS, March 14 (Xinhua) -- Syrian troops have started to storm the rebels' key town of Yabroud, north of the capital Damascus, with "heavy and focused" shelling, local media reported on Friday night.
"The Syrian army is entering the town of Yabroud from all directions and advancing on all hubs of the town," the report said, adding that the troops have recaptured all of building blocks at the entrance of the town and its surrounding.
"The armed groups are expected to collapse within hours," the report said.
Earlier in the day, local media said the Syrian army troops had advanced in the orchards of Yabroud, tightening its control over the eastern entrance and the northeastern edge of the town, which is bordering Lebanon.
Meanwhile, the pan-Arab al-Mayadeen said fighters of al-Qaida- linked Nusra Front had erected roadblocks in the town of Flaita, west of Yabroud, and near the Lebanese borders. They tried to prevent rebel fighters from abandoning their positions in Yabroud after the wide-scale offensive of the Syrian army.
In mid-February the army started a major offensive to recapture Yabroud by securing its surroundings before pressing into the town itself.
Yabroud, some 80 km north of Damascus, is deemed as an important stronghold of armed rebels due to its location. The town is on the slope of the mountainous Qalamoun region and near the Lebanese town of Ersal, where the rebels obtained weapons and medical treatment.
Yabroud's rugged terrain and ancient caves also gave them shelter from government air raids.
Military experts said that by capturing Yabroud, the government forces can secure the international road connecting Damascus to the central province of Homs and some provinces on the Mediterranean coast. They could then deter the flow of car bombs into neighboring Lebanon.
UNITED NATIONS, March 14 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday appealed once again to the international community to reenergize Syria peace talks to end what is now "the world's biggest humanitarian and peace and security crisis" after three years of bloodshed.
"I deeply regret the failure of the international community, represented by all of us in this hall, the region and the Syrians themselves, to put a stop to this appalling conflict," he told an informal meeting of the UN General Assembly on Syria. Full story
BEIRUT, March 14 (Xinhua) -- At the time when the Syrian crisis enters the fourth year, the Syrian refugees in Lebanon numbering over 957,000 are still suffering from miserable living conditions and they are pessimistic about the end of violence in their homeland.
In the eastern Bekaa region, a number of Syrian refugees gather around a small TV unit placed over a wooden box to follow the news regarding the latest developments of the battle of Yabroud, the clashes in Aleppo and the armed conflict between the rival fundamentalists namely ISIS and AL-Nusra Front, and the future of the Geneva peace talks on Syria. Full story
DAMASCUS, March 11 (Xinhua) -- Syria, which was once the only Arab state that allows Arabs to enter its territories without visa, has finally applied the principle of reciprocity on Arabs and other foreigners alike, after the influx of terrorists to carry out anti-government attacks.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued a new law on Tuesday, introducing restrictions on the entry of foreigners into the country.Full story