Intense fighting is reported from the strategic Syrian town of Qusair, as rebels and government forces fight to control the area. Opposition activists say 30 members of Hezbollah were killed, while the government claims to have captured the area.
Earlier Monday, Syrian state news agency SANA reported that the army had “restored security and stability to most Qusair neighborhoods” and was “chasing the remnants of the terrorists in the northern district.” The agency quoted a military source as saying that army units dismantled a number of explosive devices, planted by terrorists in al-Souk area in the middle of the city.
The source added that army units are continuing hunting the remnants of terrorists in some hideouts in the northern and southern areas of the city.
“The Syrian army managed to make a full circle around the city, fighting the opposition fighters. The main achievement is to stop the line of supply chain between Lebanon and Syria,” local journalist Abdallah Mawazini told RT.
“They started from the western side of the city, in the rural areas. They control this zone with some fighters from Lebanon. Some extremist groups were preparing to go into Syria to fight with the rebels, they were going to go make a bigger front in order to fight and expand the fighting line between the government and the opposition,” he said.
But opposition activists denied that Qusair had been captured, saying that they had pushed back most of the attacking forces to their original positions, destroying at least four Syrian army tanks and five light Hezbollah vehicles.
Troops backed by Hezbollah “made incursions into Qusair, but they are now basically back to where they started at the security compounds in east Qusair and at a…roadblock to the south,” local activist Tareq Murei told Reuters.
Murei said that six people were killed by Hezbollah’s multiple rocket launches on Monday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that 48 rebels had been killed, as well as four civilians. The Observatory’s director, Rahim Abdurahman, put Hezbollah casualties at 23 dead and 70 wounded. Lebanese security sources said at least 12 Hezbollah fighters had been killed.
Qusair, which is about 18 miles (29km) southwest of Homs, is seen as a key city for both sides. It helps link the Syrian capital of Damascus with government strongholds on the Mediterranean coast and is a passageway for rebel supplies and fighters from Lebanon.
According to UN figures, more than 80,000 people have been killed since the uprising against Bashar Assad began in March 2011.
‘No options off the table’
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a Monday statement that “no options are off the table” if the Syrian government refuses to negotiate the country’s future at the upcoming Geneva conference.
The comment came just four days after he accused the Assad regime of being “determined to conceal the truth” about what was happening, due to its refusal to allow a UN team to investigate reports that chemical weapons had been used by the Syrian army.
But while Hague points the finger at the Assad government, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has urged the Syrian opposition to take part in the peace conference, without setting any preconditions. The conference is being organized by the US and Russia, as a way to seek a resolution to the conflict.
“Our colleagues, including Americans, together with who we put forward this initiative [to hold the conference], took the obligation to work closely with the opposition in order to make it change its approach to the immediate start of the negotiations and stop conditioning it with unrealistic things,” Lavrov said in a statement.
Lavrov also stressed that Iran must be among nations invited to the conference.
Istanbul and Madrid are expected to host meetings of various Syrian opposition groups this week, he said.
- Hezbollah Joins Syrian Army to Capture Key Rebel Stronghold (worldnewscurator.com)
- Thirty Hezbollah fighters killed in Syria’s Qusair: activists (dailystar.com.lb)
- Assad, Hezbollah forces advance into Qusair (dailystar.com.lb)