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Hezbollah fighters joined with Syrian forces to launch a bruising offensive against al Qaeda-linked militants near Damascus on Thursday, according to a TV channel affiliated with the Lebanese militia.

Al-Manar reported that the fighters had managed to seize control of a strategic area in the Qalamoun mountains where rebels from the Nusra Front — a Sunni al-Qaeda affiliate designated as foreign terrorist group by the State Department — had been hiding out.

Fighting continued throughout Thursday, according to al-Manar.

Lebanon's Hezbollah is a staunch ally of Syria’s President Bashar Assad, who has been battling the largely Sunni Muslim rebels for more than four years.

Earlier this week, Hezbollah's leader Hassan Nasrallah vowed to help clear rebels out of the strategic border region north of the Syrian capital that insurgents use as a main supply route for arms and fighters.

Thursday's offensive came a day after Hezbollah said its fighters had captured part of a key hilltop on the Syrian side of the border, inflicting heavy casualties.

IN-DEPTH

— F. Brinley Bruton

Reuters contributed to this report.