News / Middle East

    Syrian Troops, Hezbollah Attack Rebel-Held Qusair

    In this May 18, 2013 citizen journalism image provided by Qusair Lens shows Syrians inspecting the rubble of damaged buildings due to government airstrikes, in Qusair, Homs province.
    In this May 18, 2013 citizen journalism image provided by Qusair Lens shows Syrians inspecting the rubble of damaged buildings due to government airstrikes, in Qusair, Homs province.
    VOA News
    Syrian government troops backed by warplanes and Lebanese Hezbollah militants have attacked the rebel-held town of Qusair, as part of a weeks-long offensive to recapture the strategic area connecting Damascus to the Mediterranean coast.


    Activists in the town, along the Lebanese border, said Sunday that security forces intensified their assault during the day, hitting Qusair with artillery and warplanes and destroying multiple homes.

    The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 52 people were killed, including 48 rebel fighters.

    A Syrian official told Western news agencies that government troops had captured the municipal headquarters and surrounding buildings. Syrian state television said security forces then began hunting down terrorists - the government's term for rebels fighting a two-year war to oust President Bashar al-Assad.

    There was no independent confirmation.

    One of the Islamist units defending Qusair (the al-Siddiq Brigade) said attempts to storm the town had failed. Another activist in the Qusair region said the rebel grip was tenuous but that the army was not in control.

    Syrian troops had cut off Qusair on three sides and captured surrounding villages in recent weeks. The town lies near a highway from Damascus to the Syrian coast and controlling it would solidify President Assad's access to coastal regions largely inhabited by his minority Alawite sect.

    Qusair also has formed part of a cross-border smuggling route for rebels.

    Meanwhile, as Syrian refugees continue to stream into Jordan and Lebanon, the international aid group Oxfam warned that warmer summer weather will increase health-related risks due to a lack of shelter, water and basic sanitation.

    Increased cases of public health-related diseases such as diarrhea and skin infections have already been recorded in host communities and temporary settlements, where an increasing number of refugees now live.

    In Lebanon's Bekaa Valley alone, there are now some 240 tented settlements, six times the number recorded in January.

    As of May 2013, some 635,000 people are in need of assistance in Lebanon - both refugees and host communities - and Oxfam says it anticipates this number to increase to over 740,000 by November.

    More than 80,000 people have been killed and several million displaced since the start of the rebellion against Assad in March 2011.

    Some information for this report was provided by AP,AFP and Reuters.

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    Comments
         
    by: Igor from: Russia
    May 20, 2013 1:31 AM
    It is very easy to see the true color of the USA and its allies. They support the rebels because they think they can rely on those terrorists to overthrow Syrian goverment, which is Russia's ally. How can you promote democracy in a country by depending on groups of terrorists?!!! The purpose of the West is to overthrow Mr. Assad, not to create a democratic society in Syria!
    Why the West would like to overthrow Mr. Assad? Because they want to isolate Iran, Russia which are not their allies.

    by: Anonymous
    May 20, 2013 12:54 AM
    The days are numbered for Bashar al Assad (the biggest terrorist in Syria) and Hezbollah. The world should know, that anyone who backs Bashar al Assad by arming him or backing him in any way is in fact aiding a criminal guilty of endless crimes and should be dealt with accordingly.
    In Response

    by: Gerardo from: USA
    May 20, 2013 8:40 PM
    Wrong on all counts. The biggest terrorists are those Sunni Saudi Arabians who are not belonging in Syria. They are cut from the same cloth as world's biggest terrorist, Osama bin Laden. Shiite and Alawite had nothing to do with 9/11. Why do you support the people who attacked us on 9/11? I was there, and I am telling the world you are wrong. The terrorists will be defeated, they will be hung from buildings and trees. Hezbollah is the most fearsome fighter in Muslim world. Sunni terrorists have no chance. Go home anonymous. Syria was at peace, now ruined because of small minds like yours.

    by: George Kafantaris
    May 19, 2013 11:44 PM
    How are the Syrian Rebels supposed to deal with Assad's tanks, helicopters and planes?
    And we wonder why they are resorting to terrorist bombings. Have we given them any other ostensible military support?
    The conflict is in Syria but in fact it's about freedom in the rest of the world. Yet we have surrendered the keys to the free world to totalitarian regimes.
    Yes, Russian and China -- completely devoid of any moral authority -- have succeeded in rendering us fully impotent in Syria.

    by: SixSIxSix from: USA
    May 19, 2013 10:50 PM
    An active Hezbollah and Assad alliance is incredibly destabilizing for the Region. Syria seriously intervened in the Lebanese Civil War leaving a legacy of hatred and distrust. Lebanon could boil again over the fall out. Israel will not tolerate close cooperation and transfer of weapons. This thing could blow sky high through this kind of action.

    by: Regula from: USA
    May 19, 2013 9:53 PM
    This entire blood bath in Syria and the untold suffering of the Syrian people could have been prevented if the so-called international community had in fact made an effort right away, at the beginning, when Assad was ready for negotiations time and again, to support such negotiations instead on insisting - against the wishes of the Syrians - that Assad had to go. The fact that the rebellion started with a desire for reforms but without replacing Assad - those were the true wishes of the people - was just simply ignored by the West cum Israel who instigated the civil war as a means to oust Assad. Now it can only be hoped, for the sake of the Syrian people, that Assad prevails and gets to oust the entire collection of islamist hoodlooms and thugs so a functioning state can be restored. And the west will do well to support Assad. The alternative is a failed state, indeterminate civil war among powergreedy factions and a stronghold for islamic militants. Or, in the alternative that the US intervenes: the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood at the helm of a country governed by Sharia, intolerant of minorities and in the longer run, the entire Middle East governed by the various factions of the Muslim Brotherhood - that is what Qatar wants. Although the Brotherhood is Sunni, it will have relations with Iran and Iraq, not the US in the first place. At this point, whatever the US does, it will have lost one more war - this one by instigation using jihadis to do the fighting. Assad is by far the better choice. Even the US gov will have to come to that insight.
    In Response

    by: moritz from: Germany
    May 20, 2013 2:16 PM
    Had the US do gooders not have tried to take advantage of this Situation the war would have never happen or been over within weeks. We do not need another Iraq even if that is what Israel wants
    In Response

    by: gig24
    May 19, 2013 10:52 PM
    Assad was a thug too,i heard.Anyway,if he gets to stay, Mr Putin must help immediately secure all borders. He must give part of is and to establish safe-heavens,the refugees shall use their land ,not someone else's.Later Assad then must register them and assimilate them.
    In Response

    by: Old Dog from: SE Asia
    May 19, 2013 10:51 PM
    Assad has always said Syrians have to decide, his term will end in 2014. Why can't the world, esp. French gov't, not able to see that it is so easy to hold him responsible for his words?

    by: Rudy Haugeneder from: Canada
    May 19, 2013 4:47 PM
    Truth -- in the second last paragraph of a long WSJ story "Syrian Forces Push to Retake Stronghold" today: "An assertive Mr. Assad, who still enjoys popular support, particularly among Syria's minorities, said his fate wouldn't be decided at peace talks that the U.S. and Russia are trying to convene in Geneva between the regime and the opposition."

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