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The 20-year-old was wounded when a rocket hit a vehicle carrying him and other fighters. His face bandaged after doctors removed shrapnel from his jaw and left hand, Awad said he was determined to rejoin the battle because he is originally from Syrian town of Qusair, another border town that was a rebel stronghold until Hezbollah fighters helped overrun it last year in their first major incursion in Syria’s war.

“This is enough reason to want to fight Hezbollah and Assad to death,” Awad said.

But there is the issue of personal revenge too, he said: He lost four uncles, two cousins and four female relatives amid the fighting in Qusair.

The battle for Yabroud is particularly fierce because the town is key for rebels. It is their last stronghold in Syria’s Qalamoun region, between the Lebanese border and the Syrian capital Damascus, an important route for smuggling supplies to rebels from Lebanon.

Government forces have taken a string of other rebel-held towns in the area in the past month and are now making a final push on Yabroud. Earlier this week, Syrian helicopters attacked the town’s outskirts with barrel bombs - containers packed with explosives and fuel that the government has used to devastating effect in other rebel-held urban areas in Sryia.

The fighting has contributed to a wave of refugees fleeing across the border to to Arsal. In the past two weeks alone, 13,000 arrived in Arsal, which has already been overwhelmed by Syrians settling in makeshift camps in the fields and hills on its outskirts.

Facilities for the rebels have geared up as well in Arsal. Two months ago, a new hospital opened in the town with two operating theaters, an emergency room and seven doctors on staff, including several surgeons, who perform an average six operations a day.

So far, up to 200 people have been treated there, mostly Syrian fighters and civilians, said Bassem Faris, a Syrian doctor and the hospital’s manager. He was previously in Yabroud treating fighters at a makeshift hospital but had to flee the area after the fall of Qusair.

“Every one of us has a role to play in this revolution, and I will be more useful if I treat people and save lives,” Faris said.


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