DAMASCUS, SYRIA: Syrian troops captured a western town near the border with Lebanon on Thursday, after days of heavy fighting that killed dozens including nine doctors and nurses and the nephew of a Hezbollah cabinet minister, anti-government activists and state media said.
In Damascus, mortar fire hit the neighborhood of the Russian Embassy, killing one Syrian and wounding nine, including members of the embassy’s guard corps, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad have fired mortar shells on the capital with increasing regularity in the past few weeks. A statement said the embassy building sustained only minor damage.
The fighting near the border with Lebanon is part of a fierce offensive north of the capital that has seen several rebel strongholds fall into government hands in recent weeks.
Assad’s forces launched the push into the rugged Qalamoun region along the border in order to cut off rebel supply routes and stem the flow of fighters. The fighting has forced thousands of Syrians to flee to neighboring Lebanon.
Militants from Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Hezbollah group openly joined the war on the side of government forces in May, tipping the scales against the rebels fighting for Assad’s overthrow.
A Syrian army statement said troops have fully seized control of Deir Attiyeh and pledged to continue its pursuit of “terrorists” all over the country until full victory. The government routinely refers to rebels as terrorists.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed government forces are almost in full control of Deir Attiyeh, whose population is nearly a third Christian.