The Syrian army backed by Lebanese ally Hezbollah has advanced deeper into the besieged Syrian city of Zabadani two weeks into a campaign to capture it from insurgents, rebels and the army said.

The control of the city, about 45 km (30 miles) northwest of the capital Damascus, is seen as crucial to consolidate government-held areas linking Lebanon and Syria. Zabadani is a former popular resort on the main Beirut-Damascus highway.

Hezbollah militiamen and the army, aided by reinforcements, advanced closer to Zabadani’s center under cover of heavy artillery fire and intense aerial bombardments of insurgent hideouts, rebels and the army said. […]