Ninety-three rebels killed fleeing castle, says Syrian army

Crac des Chevaliers, Crusader fortress

The Syrian army ousted rebels from a massive Crusader fortress after several hours of fierce fighting, killing at least 93 of them as they fled to neighbouring Lebanon, an army commander told reporters on a government-led tour of the area on Friday.

Reporters were shown signs of a precipitous flight from Crac des Chevaliers by the opposition fighters, including food on a burning makeshift stove left behind untouched, as well as collapsed walls and staircases and other damage from the multiple rounds of fighting in the Unesco World Heritage site since rebels first seized it in 2012.

The Thursday fall of the imposing hilltop citadel is as much symbolic as strategic. It is the latest in a string of government victories near the frontier with Lebanon, used by rebels as a conduit for recruits and supplies.

It has suffered some damage.