Syrian soldiers have taken full control of farmland on the northern edge of Yabroud, military sources said on Tuesday.
According to Al-Alam, the sources said the Syrian army killed dozens of militants as they took over the Rima Farms district outside the town.
“The army is now directly facing Yabroud,” one of the sources said.
Capturing Yabroud, the last major rebel stronghold near the Lebanese border north of Damascus, would help the government secure the land route linking his Mediterranean coastal stronghold with the capital, and choke off a rebel supply line from Lebanon.
Thousands fled Yabroud, a town of an estimated 40,000-50,000 people roughly 60 km north of Damascus, and the surrounding areas during the clashes.
The government has been making incremental gains along the highway as well as around Damascus and Aleppo in recent months, regaining the initiative in Syria’s conflict, which enters its fourth year next week.
Meanwhile, President Bashar al-Assad visited displaced Syrians in the town of Adra on Wednesday, state media said, in a rare public appearance outside the heart of Damascus.
State television said Assad inspected a shelter for people displaced by fighting in Adra, which lies about 12 miles northeast of central Damascus and was partly captured by rebels three months ago.
A picture on the presidency's Twitter account showed Assad, in a dark jacket and white shirt, talking to a group of women at a building identified as the Dweir shelter.
Syrian television said Assad was "listening to their needs" and told them that the state would continue "to secure basic necessities for the displaced until they can return to their homes in Adra and elsewhere".
Assad has made few public appearances since Syria's conflict began three years ago. Wednesday's trip underlined his increasing confidence just 18 months after rebels appeared to be challenging his control over the capital.
Many residents fled Adra in December when terrorists took over part of the town and killed 28 people in a sectarian attack targeting Druzes, Christians and Alawites - the same sect to which Assad belongs.
Adra had a population of about 100,000 including Alawites, Druzes, Christians and Sunni Muslims before the conflict erupted.
Assad is expected to seek a new term in a presidential election planned for the middle of the year.
Syria conflict has killed more than 130,000 people in Syria since March 2011.
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