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May 20, 2013

Syrian Rebels Suffer Setbacks From Fighting in Town Near Lebanon Border

by Scott Bobb

Syrian government troops backed by fighters from Lebanon's Hezbollah movement have been in fierce battles in  the rebel-held town of Qusair after weeks of fighting.  Many wounded rebels are being treated across the nearby border in northern Lebanon.

Eighteen year-old Obeida Abdel Nabi is recovering from a shrapnel wound to his lower abdomen.  He was hurt several days ago in Qusair near Syria's border with northern Lebanon, where pitched battles have raged for days.

Syrian government forces have been staging air and artillery attacks to drive out the rebels in the increasingly brutal conflict. The fighting is causing many casualties among fighters and civilians alike.

Abdel Nabi says the situation in Qusair is bad. “There it's still very difficult, especially with the shelling and bombing. The food situation is worse,” Nabi said.

Many cross the border in remote areas near the Bekaa Valley, often with the help of Lebanese sympathizers like Hassan Abdelrahman.

“Every day it gets worse and worse. Every day there are killings. The rebels are losing their people and they are killing regime soldiers.  Both sides are taking losses,” Abdelrahman said.

Abu Yamine lost his arm 15 months ago during an earlier offensive in Homs.  He now coordinates the treatment of the wounded.

“When I was wounded my trip from Homs to Tripoli took 24 hours. Now some take five, seven, even 10 days. This is a big strain on the (rebel) Free Syrian Army soldiers in the field,” Yamine said.

Twenty year-old Ayman Moussa nearly bled to death after a bombing that killed two comrades and wounded another.  He is undergoing therapy so he can receive an artificial leg. After that he has one goal.

“I will go back to Homs to fight, for sure, even with my artificial leg.  Some with artificial limbs don't go back.  But I will.  Walking is good enough for me.  Because the regime has not fallen so we haven't finished,” Moussa said.

This is the goal of most of the wounded rebels.  Although there is talk abroad of peace negotiations, they say they will not stop their struggle until the Syrian regime is gone.