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Syrian activists say 17 rebels have died in clashes at rebel stronghold near Lebanese border

Mideast Lebanon Border Battle-1.jpg

In this picture taken on Wednesday, March 5, 2014, a Lebanese nurse, left, and Syrian man, right, carry Adul-Karim, 18, a Syrian rebel who was injured during a battle against the Syrian government forces and Hezbollah fighters in Rima village near Yabroud, the last rebel stronghold in Syria's mountainous Qalamoun region, as they move him from a makeshift hospital to a rest house after he received his medical treatment, in the Lebanese-Syrian border town of Arsal, eastern Lebanon. Trucks of armed fighters rumble from this Lebanese Sunni town through the mountains to the front in Syria, where rebels are in a furious fight to keep a vital stronghold. At the same time, Lebanese Shiite fighters from a town not far away are also streaming in to join the battle _ but on the opposing side, backing Syrian government forces. The battle has effectively erased the border between the two countries and underlines how dangerously Lebanon is being sucked into its neighbor’s civil war. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)The Associated Press

Syrian activists say at least 17 rebels have been killed in a battle with government troops for an opposition stronghold near the border with Lebanon.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the opposition fighters died in overnight clashes with troops loyal to President Bashar Assad near Yabroud.

The town is the last rebel stronghold in Syria's mountainous Qalamoun region that stretches to the border with Lebanon.

The Observatory says government aircraft carried out six air strikes on rebel positions on the outskirts of Yabroud on Friday. There were no immediate reports of casualties in the attacks

Backed by Lebanon's Hezbollah fighters, Assad's troops have been on a punishing offensive there since November to cut off supply routes to rebels from Lebanon.