Hizbullah, Syria Regime Forces Enter Rebel Bastion Zabadani
Syrian government forces backed by fighters from Hizbullah entered the town of Zabadani on Sunday in a bid to take the last rebel-held bastion along the Lebanese border.
Syrian state television and Hizbullah's al-Manar station announced the advance into Zabadani on Sunday, a day after a major operation against it began.
"Heroic army forces in cooperation with the Lebanese resistance took control of the al-Jamaiyat neighborhood in western Zabadani and the al-Sultana neighborhood in the east of the city," state television said.
"Operations are continuing with dozens of terrorists killed and wounded."
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said regime forces and Hizbullah had entered Zabadani and intense clashes were underway in its east and west.
Army helicopters dropped at least 22 barrel bombs on the town and were also shelling it heavily, said the Britain-based monitoring group.
At least 14 pro-government and Hizbullah fighters had been killed in the past 24 hours, along with at least 12 rebels and a civilian, it added.
The official SANA news agency said it had killed "dozens of terrorists," a term the regime uses to describe its armed opponents.
- Last rebel border bastion -
Zabadani was one of the first towns to fall into rebel hands, in early 2012, and is now the opposition's only remaining stronghold along the Lebanese border.
The town is strategically important for the regime in part because of its proximity to the capital and the highway that runs from Damascus to Beirut.
Zabadani has been under siege for more than a year, and most of the civilians have already fled, according to activists.
Alwan, an activist from Zabadani who now lives outside Syria, said there were still thousands of civilians in the east of the town and many wounded people.
"I don't know what their fate will be," he told AFP.
The town is in the Qalamun region, once an opposition stronghold but mostly recaptured by the regime and Hizbullah in a campaign between late 2013 and April 2014.