The Syrian army and Hezbollah are advancing on the village of Flita near the Lebanon border, where militants had fled following the liberation of the Syrian city of Yabroud.
“There was heavy fighting yesterday evening and last night,” as the government forces tried to take the village, but that has now stopped, Rami Abdul-Rahman, director of the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said on Thursday.
The army is continuing to shell the militants in the village, he said.
A leader of the Military Council of Qalamoun, a rebel group, was killed in clashes, and around eight others, including one of his assistants, were killed in a barrel bomb attack, Abdul-Rahman added.
Earlier this month, the Syrian Army and Hezbollah took Yabroud after months of battles for the strategically-located city, as it acted as a conduit for rebel supplies from Lebanon.
Syrian planes bombed rebel positions in the coastal province of Latakia, where rebels have been making gains while battling government troops for six straight days, the Observatory said.
Government troops have been battling for days with the militants from several terrorist groups, including the Al-Qaeda-affiliate al-Nusra Front, that launched the offensive in the province a week ago, seizing a number of towns, a border crossing with Turkey and – for the first time in the 3-year-old conflict – a tiny stretch of coast giving the rebels an outlet to the Mediterranean Sea.
Fierce clashes were ongoing Thursday as the army tried to wrestle back the predominantly Christian Armenian town of Kasab and nearby village of Nabaan, both seized by the rebels.
Artillery aimed at rebels in Kasab echoed across the area at the rate of one every two minutes, according to an Associated Press reporter in Misherfeh, a village nestled at the foothills of mountains overlooking Kasab.
A field commander speaking to reporters in Misherfeh said the army was making progress against the militants.
“The army and the National Defense Forces are moving toward Kasab from Nabaan and Qastal Maaf,” said the commander, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
Over the past month, army forces, backed by his allies from the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance group, have captured a series of rebel-held towns and villages along Syria’s border with Lebanon, squeezing the flow of rebel militants, weapons and supplies across the frontier.