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Syria: Government forces seize key rebel town

By The Associated Press

This article was published March 16, 2014 at 9:33 a.m.

DAMASCUS, Syria — Syrian troops backed by Hezbollah fighters seized a key rebel supply town on the Lebanese border Sunday, driving them from the area and scoring a major blow against them in the 3-year-old-conflict.

The fall of Yabroud immediately emboldened government forces to attack nearby rebel-held towns, pressing forward in what has been nearly a year-long advance against rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar Assad.

Support from the Iranian-backed, Shiite Hezbollah appears to have tipped the balance in the border area, even as it has partly prompted the conflict to bleed into Lebanon where it has ignited polarizing sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shiites.

In Lebanon, 13 people have been killed in Syria-related violence in recent days: 12 in gunbattles and one in a rocket attack. And in the capital, Hezbollah supporters celebrated Yabroud's fall with celebratory gunfire in Shiite-dominated areas, while youths on motorbikes waving the yellow Hezbollah flag noisily roared through the upscale central district.

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