AL-SAHL, Syria - Gunfire crackled and warplanes buzzed overhead as Syria's military fought on Tuesday to take a town that would help President Bashar Assad seal a link between his coastal bastions and Damascus.
Government fighters backed by the Lebanese Shi'ite Muslim militant movement Hezbollah and local paramilitaries bombarded the areas around Yabroud, the last major town held by mostly Sunni Muslim rebels near the Lebanese border.
Buildings in the town appeared undamaged and electricity was running, but shops were closed and the streets empty except for Syrian soldiers who patrolled with assault rifles, many smiling and flashing V for victory signs.
Thousands of people fled Yabroud, a town of an estimated 40,000-50,000 people roughly 60 km (37 miles) north of Damascus, and the surrounding areas after it was bombed and shelled last month ahead of the assault.
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