World

Syrian troops, Hezbollah advance in mountain resort amid charges of demographic changes

  • Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani, right, shakes hands with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem under the portraits of late Iranian revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, top left, and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at the start of their meeting in Tehran, Iran,  Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

    Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani, right, shakes hands with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem under the portraits of late Iranian revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, top left, and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at the start of their meeting in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)  (The Associated Press)

  • Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, left, meets with the Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani, right, at his office in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015. Pictures of the late Iranian revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, top left, and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei hang on the wall. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

    Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, left, meets with the Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani, right, at his office in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015. Pictures of the late Iranian revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, top left, and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei hang on the wall. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)  (The Associated Press)

  • Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani waits to greet Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem ahead of their meeting, in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

    Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani waits to greet Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem ahead of their meeting, in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)  (The Associated Press)

Syrian state media says government forces backed by members of Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah group are advancing from different directions in the mountain resort of Zabadani near the border with Lebanon.

The ultraconservative Ahrar a-Sham insurgent group said Wednesday that it has stopped communicating with Iranian mediators after they insisted that fighters and residents leave the resort.

Ahrar al-Sham said the government aims to clear out the area's Sunni Muslim population.

Syrian troops and Hezbollah have been besieging Zabadani since early July, and have faced strong resistance from gunmen inside the resort.

Syria's state news agency SANA said the fighting has left dozens of militants dead.

The capture of Zabadani would tighten Hezbollah's grip on Syrian territories bordering Lebanon.