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      Assad Forces Capture Key Town, Open WMD Routes

      Syrian army seizes town on Damascus-Homs highway, allows shipment of supplies and chemical weapons for disposal.
      By Ari Yashar
      First Publish: 12/10/2013, 7:21 PM

      Damascus (file)
      Damascus (file)
      AFP/File

      After roughly 20 days of fierce fighting during which the Damascus-Homs highway has been blocked, the Syrian army has succeeding in capturing the key town of Nabak 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Damascus. The breakthrough allows Syria to ship chemical weapons out of Syria, and to supply its capital.

      Over the course of the recent fighting for the strategic Qalamoun region north of Damascus, the Syrian army has tried to cut off the cross-border supply lines of arms and fighters to the rebel stronghold area.

      However, fighting in Nabak has bogged down progress, leaving Damascus cut off from fuel. A Hezbollah commander fighting for President Bashar Assad's regime was reportedly killed in the fighting.

      On Monday, the pro-Assad news source Al Watan reported that Nabak had been captured and the key highway was expected to be reopened soon.

      The newly captured road provides a route for chemical weapons to be removed from the country and disposed of.

      Just on Sunday the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced that the removal of chemical weapons would likely be delayed past set deadlines due to "technical difficulties," likely hinting at the blocked Damascus-Homs highway.

      Meanwhile eyewitnesses report that women and children have been targeted in the fighting.

      One witness told Al Jazeera that she had found several bodies in a Nabak house on Sunday. According to her testimony, she found an entire family "executed by guns. Each one of them received more than 50 bullets. There are still another five, we are sure they were also executed, but we do not know where they are."

      Furthermore, Syrian opposition activists last week reported that the Syrian army used chemical weapons in the Nabak fighting.