Two weeks into the latest battle for control of the key Syrian border town of Zabadani, the main route into Lebanon from metro Damascus, observers are putting the death toll at 67 fighters, consisting of 46 rebels from al-Qaeda’s faction and 21 members of Hezbollah.
After seizing Idlib Province in the north, al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front tried to expand into the Qalamoun Mountains, which are where Hezbollah’s Syrian bases of operations are. Hezbollah has counterattacked, and most of the important towns have repeatedly traded hands.
The Syrian military is also involved in the fight over Zabadani, with artillery forces positioned on a nearby hilltop. There is no indication, however, of what the military’s death toll is in the latest round of fighting.
Zabadani is strategically important, and was also among the first towns the rebels seized when the civil war began in the first place, and has been a focus of Hezbollah’s efforts to get the rebel forces away from the Lebanese border.