Hezbollah, Syrian army renew Qusair offensive

Opposition activists say the fighters and soldiers are using air strikes and artillery to drive out rebels.

By REUTERS
May 21, 2013 13:53
1 minute read.
Hezbollah supporters march in Beirut’s suburbs

Hezbollah Beirut 370. (photo credit: Archive)

AMMAN - Lebanese Hezbollah fighters and Syrian soldiers, backed by air strikes and artillery, renewed an offensive aimed at driving Syrian rebels from the town of Qusair near the Lebanese border on Tuesday, opposition activists said.

They said fighting was raging in Qusair, as well as in areas to the east where several army bases are located, and in the Hezbollah-held southern and western approaches to the town.

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One activist, Tareq Murei said rebel brigades in the north and west of Qusair were trying to repel the latest attacks, in which three residents had been killed, bringing the number of rebel and civilian deaths in the last 48 hours to more than 100.

Syrian state media have said President Bashar Assad's forces had reasserted control over most of Qusair, but Murei said the army-Hezbollah offensive had been ineffectual.

Opposition sources say rebels have been preparing their defenses for months, setting boobytraps, mines and roadside bombs to counter armored assaults and Hezbollah jeeps.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said three Hezbollah fighters had died of wounds suffered in Sunday's heavy fighting in Qusair, bringing the Hezbollah death toll there to 31.

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Lebanese security sources have put Hezbollah's losses at 12 dead. The Iranian-backed movement itself has given no figures.

Hezbollah's role in the Qusair battle, its biggest military commitment yet in support of Assad, has prompted international alarm that Syria's civil war may spread to Lebanon and beyond. The United States has called urgently for restraint.

The Qusair region, peppered by Sunni and Shi'ite villages, has been an important supply route from Lebanon for rebels in the central province of Homs, a major prize in the conflict.

Assad, who is from Syria's minority Alawite sect and has long backed Hezbollah in Lebanon, is fighting a Sunni-led revolt which began with peaceful protests in March 2011. His violent response eventually prompted rebels to take up arms.


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