|Syria begins offensive for recapture of Yabrud||
Syrian military forces have staged an operation in the strategic Qalamoun region near the country’s southwest border with Lebanon to clear the region from al-Qaeda-linked insurgents, state television reported.
According to Al-Alam, Syrian army has managed to take control of two strategic hills near the town of Yabrud.
Yabrud has been under control of the foreign-backed militants over the past months. It is the last major town in Qalamoun that the Syrian army is fighting to retake.
The town is located near the Lebanese border and explosives used in fatal bomb attacks in Lebanon are reportedly smuggled from the militant-held town.
The Syrian army continues mop-up operations against militant groups across the country.
Saudi Arabia hits back at Russia criticism on Syria arms
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has hit back at Russian criticism of its reported plans to supply shoulder-launched missiles to Syrian rebels, saying it was Moscow's support for Damascus that was prolonging the conflict, AFP reported.
A spokesman told the official SPA news agency late Friday that the foreign ministry had been "astonished by Russian criticism of Saudi Arabia for its support of the Syrian people".
On Tuesday, Russia warned Saudi Arabia against supplying Syrian rebels with shoulder-launched missile launchers, saying such a move would endanger security across the Middle East and beyond.
The Russian foreign ministry said it was "deeply concerned" by news reports that Saudi Arabia was planning to buy Pakistani-made surface-to-air and anti-tank systems for Syrian rebels based in Jordan.
"If this sensitive weapon falls into the hands of extremists and terrorists who have flooded Syria, there is a great probability that in the end it will be used far from the borders of this Middle Eastern country," the ministry said.
Long-existing tensions between Russia and Saudi Arabia have intensified further as a result of the Syria conflict, with Moscow standing by Assad but Riyadh offering open support for the rebels.
Syria has been the scene of deadly violence since March 2011. Over 130,000 people have reportedly been killed and millions displaced due to the turmoil.
The Western powers and their regional allies - especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey - have been supporting the militants operating inside Syria, according to reports.
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