DAMASCUS, March 16 (Xinhua) -- Syrian Defense Minister Fahed Jassem al-Fraij on Sunday visited Yabroud city, north of the capital Damascus, just hours after the military forces recaptured it from the armed rebels, the official SANA news agency reported.
"We are moving from one victory to another. The victory is so close to restore the security and stability to the homeland," al- Fraij was cited by SANA as saying.
Yabroud, located some 80 km north of Damascus, is an important stronghold of the armed rebels on the slope of the mountainous Qalamoun region. It's near the Lebanese town of Ersal, where the rebels obtained weapons and medical treatment.
In mid-February, the army started a major offensive to recapture Yabroud by securing its surroundings before pressing into the city. The battle of Yabroud was part of the wide-scale offensive the Syrian army has waged to dislodge the rebels from towns and cities in the Qalamoun region, which is aimed at securing the vicinity of Damascus and preventing the flow of arms and jihadist fighters from Lebanon in addition to securing the road between Damascus and the central province of Homs and the coastal provinces as well.
Meanwhile, the General Command of the Syrian army said in a statement that the recapture of Yabroud came after a series of " qualitative" operations against the rebels, adding that the victory of the Syrian troops in Yabroud led to the collapse of the armed rebels there and came as part of the series of victories that Syrian troops have been achieving in the Qalamoun region.
The general command underscored the importance of the victory, saying it would lead to securing the border points with Lebanon and tightening the noose on the rebels' pockets in the countryside of Damascus in addition to securing the road that connects the southern region of Syria, such as Damascus, and other southern provinces, with provinces in the central and northern parts of the conflict-stricken country.
The military statement said the victory in Yabroud has "dealt a strong blow" to the armed militant groups, stressing resolve to keep fighting "terrorism" across Syria.