December 9, 2013 - 09:54 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Forces loyal to President Bashar Assad secured the highway Sunday, December 8 that links Damascus with northern Syria, paving the way for the potential shipment of chemical weapons overland to a Mediterranean port for destruction abroad, an activist group and two pro-government TV stations said, according to Associated Press.
Government troops launched an offensive last month in the rugged Qalamoun region north of Damascus in an attempt to secure the main north-south highway that runs through the area and to cut rebel supply lines that crisscross the mountainous terrain.
Fighting in the area had left the road cut for nearly three weeks, but government forces reopened the road Sunday after seizing control of most of the contested town of Nabek that is located along the highway, said the director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdurrahman.
"It is open but not secure," Abdurrahman added, saying the route remains "dangerous" because it is still under rebel fire.
Two Lebanon-based, pro-Assad TV stations, Al-Mayadeen and Hezbollah's Al-Manar, reported that the Damascus-Homs highway has been secured by the army. Both stations have several reporters in Syria.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which is leading the UN-backed mission to rid Syria of its chemical weapons program, said last week it would consider using the highway to transport Syria's arsenal to the port of Latakia before the weapons are taken out of the country for destruction.
Sunday's fighting focused in the town of Nabek near the Lebanon border. Syrian troops backed by members of Lebanon's Hezbollah group managed to capture most of the town in heavy fighting, the Observatory said.