THE LEVANT NEWS — BEIRUT: Hezbollah and the Syrian army Friday struck at militant positions inside the Syrian town of Zabadani at the southern end of Qalamoun, a security source told The Daily Star.

The town was bombarded with heavy artillery and rockets, and a Syrian fighter jet carried out two airstrikes on central Zabadani.

Warplanes also dropped barrels rigged with explosives over the area, according to the source.

The Syrian army, backed by Hezbollah, also pounded militant positions in the village of Bloudan, which overlooks Zabadani, after warning the residents to evacuate it, the source said.

On Thursday, Hezbollah engaged in fierce clashes with Syrian rebels in Zabadani in a fresh push to seize the last militant stronghold along Lebanon’s eastern border.

Hezbollah had prepared to wage an all-out offensive on Zabadaniby sending large quantities of weapons and ammunition into Lebanon’s eastern mountain range earlier this week.

The decision to launch an offensive came after negotiations with rebels failed to secure the militants’ withdrawal from the area, which is located 50 kilometers northwest of Damascus and 12 kilometers northeast of Lebanon’s Masnaa border crossing.

Zabadani bears strategic significance for Hezbollah since it once served as a logistical hub for supplying Hezbollah with Iranian weapons. It also served as a base for party fighters and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

The capture of the town of Zabadani would add to Hezbollah’s major field victories, which saw the party taking 64 percent of theQalamoun hills since their offensive, backed by the Syrian army, began in the region last May.

Source: The Daily Star