Last updated: 18 April, 2013

Syrian troops seize strategic Homs village

Syrian troops captured a strategic village in central Homs province on Wednesday, putting pressure on rebel forces in the area, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog 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 Observatory said.

The village is also just four kilometres (2.5 miles) from the main route that runs between Homs, Damascus and the northern province of Aleppo.

“This will hamper the movement of rebels between Qusayr and the city of Homs,” 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,” 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 Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah.

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

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

On Wednesday, 139 people were killed, the Observatory said — 60 rebels, 43 civilians, including six children and 36 regime troops.