Battle for strategic Qusair: Syrian army, Hezbollah fight rebels for supply corridor
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,”
a local journalist, who requested anonymity, 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 Free Syrian Army meanwhile said that Hezbollah chief Hassan
Nasrallah should be held “personally responsible” for the
situation because he was allegedly meeting with all the fighters
heading to Qusair. “We are today calling Nasrallah a killer of
the Syrian people,” FSA spokesperson Louay Almokdad told Al
Arabiya English. “We are certain these are fighters of Hassan
Nasrallah. They are no longer Hezbollah, they are fighters of
Hassan Nasrallah and Ali Khamanei.”
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
Lavrov also stressed that Iran must be among nations invited to
Istanbul and Madrid are expected to host meetings of various
Syrian opposition groups this week, he said.