x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Syrian forces seize strategic village in Homs province

Holding the area could help army cut rebel supply routes.

BEIRUT // Syrian forces have captured an important town in central Homs province, putting pressure on rebel forces in the area, an activist group said.

The army seized Abel, on the main route between the city of Homs and Qusayr, a rebel stronghold near the border with Lebanon, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The village is also just four kilometres from the main route between Homs, Damascus and the northern province of Aleppo.

"This will hamper the movement of rebels between Qusayr and the city of Homs," the Observatory director, Rami Abdel Rahman, said.

Meanwhile, rebels in the area captured the abandoned Dabaa military airport, seizing munitions left behind by the retreating regime forces, the group said.

"This airport should have allowed the rebels to ease the pressure on them in the area, but with the capture of Abel by the army, it has become more complicated," Mr Abdel Rahman said.

In recent days, troops have concentrated their efforts on Qusayr and the surrounding villages, with the Observatory saying soldiers have been aided by fighters loyal to the Lebanese Shiite group Hizbollah.

Homs province as a whole is considered a strategic prize because of its location, connecting Damascus to the coast.

Violence continued elsewhere in Syria yesterday, killing at least 22 people, according to the Britain based Observatory, which relies on a network of activists and doctors inside the country.

* Agence France-Presse