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Al-Rastan is the third largest city in the Homs Governorate, located 25 kilometers north of its administrative capital Homs and 22 kilometers from Hama. Nearby localities include Talbiseh and al-Ghantu to the south, al-Zaafaraniyah and al-Mashrafah to the southeast, Murayj al-Durr to the northeast, Tumin to the north, Deir al-Fardis to the northwest and Kafr Nan and the Houla village cluster to the west. Al-Rastan had a population of nearly 40,000 in 2004. It occupies the site of the Roman-era city of Arethusa and still contains some of its ancient ruins. It continued to exist as a relatively small, but strategic town throughout the early Islamic and Ottoman eras. Since the start of the 2011–2012 Syrian uprising, al-Rastan has served as a major opposition stronghold and has been the site of heavy clashes between the Syrian government's security forces and rebels from the Free Syrian Army. Al-Rastan is situated adjacently south of the large bridge linking Homs and Hama. The total land area of the town is 350 hectares. It is the site of the Rastan Dam, a major dam on the Orontes River that has a retaining capacity of 225 million m³. The dam is principally used for irrigation. The city also contains one of Syria's principal marlstone quarries. (via Freebase)