PYRRHIC VICTORY: Official Hezbollah station al-Manar broadcast a video Sunday of Syrian army units lowering the rebel flag over the town of Yabroud in the Qalamoun mountains, replacing it with the official Syrian flag while holding a photograph of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
“This is one of Yabroud’s liveliest, most important streets,” says the al-Manar reporter, gesturing toward rows of shuttered storefronts along a deserted street.
“Operations are ongoing in the hills adjacent to Yabroud,” he adds, indicating that pro-Assad forces are continuing to pursue rebels who have fled to areas around Yabroud.
Syrian government and Hezbollah fighters gained full control of Yabroud over the weekend. The town has been a key rebel base for nearly two years, and represented the last rebel stronghold in the strategic Qalamoun mountain range, which runs for some 80km along the Syrian-Lebanese border and contains key rebel shipping routes into Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley.
In recent weeks, Syrian army and Hezbollah fighters took control of the hills to Yabroud’s east and northeast before finally storming the city this weekend. A victory in Yabroud leaves the Syrian government with almost full control of the Qalamoun mountains, including a key stretch of the highway connecting the Syrian capital with central and northern Syria.