Syria rebels say they have
lost battle for Al-Qusayr

Control of the city was vital for the rebels as it was their principal transit point for weapons and fighters from neighboring Lebanon.

Dahiyeh celebration
Dahiyeh celebration
Regime troops in Al-Qusayr. (AFP)

Syria's army routed rebels from the strategic town of Al-Qusayr on Wednesday following a blistering offensive led by Hezbollah fighters, scoring a major battlefield success in a drawn-out civil war that has killed thousands.


The Al-Qusayr region, located in the central province of Homs next to the Lebanese border, is strategic because it links Damascus to the coast and is a conduit for fighters and weapons for the army and the rebels.


Its fall opens the way for President Bashar al-Assad's forces to move on the city of Homs, where rebels still control many neighborhoods.


The insurgents conceded they had lost the battle for Al-Qusayr.


"Yes our brothers, this a round that we have lost," the General Commission of the Syrian Revolution said on its Facebook page, while adding that rebels seeking to oust Assad "will continue to fight the thousands of Lebanese mercenaries."


The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the army and fighters from Hezbollah, Lebanon's powerful Shiite movement, were in control of the town.


Meanwhile, a well-informed source said that the withdrawal of Syrian rebels from Al-Qusayr came as a result of an agreement between the rebels and Hezbollah brokered by Lebanese centrist political leaders Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.


“The rebels withdrew from Al-Qusayr in exchange for lifting the siege off of the district and the evacuation of civilians and injured people,” the source told NOW.


Another source said that Jumblatt did not communicate directly with the Syrian regime but rather with Hezbollah through the Shiite party's top top security chief Wafiq Safa.


“Jumblatt expressed the [willingness] of the Syrian opposition to withdraw its rebels from Al-Qusayr on the condition that they be [allowed] to evacuate families and wounded people without being attacked,” the source told NOW.


After taking the approval of the Syrian regime, Safa informed Jumblatt that “the passages are now safe and known for those who wish to take them,” the source added.


Meanwhile, a PSP source told our website that the party and its leader “do not work in order to gain media fame, and every effort deployed in this field must be kept secret in order to keep negotiation channels open in case they are needed again.”


Another source also told NOW that “Berri worked through his [connections] to complete the deal fearing fatal repercussions on Lebanon in the event that the battle of Al-Qusayr was resolved militarily.”


A source close to Berri also noted that the parliament’s speaker was “keen to avoid a massacre in Al-Qusayr, which could have a negative influence on the already tense situation in Lebanon.”


Free Syrian Army Supreme Military Council member Alaa al-Basha said that the rebels withdrew “due to a lack of ammunitions and weapons.”


He also told NOW that the withdrawal aimed at protecting the civilians in the area.


“We have called on all humanitarian councils and on the Red Crescent to open a safe road to transfer the injured,” he said.


Following Al-Qusayr's fall, the Syrian army vowed to trounce rebel fighters across Syria.


"After successive advances in the war against organised terrorists, our armed forces say they will not hesitate to crush the armed men wherever they are and in every corner of Syria," it said in a statement.


Damascus' ally Iran quickly hailed the fall of Al-Qusayr.


Tehran "congratulates the victory of the Syrian army and people over the 'takfiri' terrorists," Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said, using a term for Sunni militants who comprise the majority of the country's rebels.


Iran is a predominantly Shiite Muslim country, and a close ally of Assad, who belongs to the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.


Earlier, Syria state television said the army "totally controls" the strategic region of Al-Qusayr after an offensive against rebel fighters that lasted almost three weeks.


Official news agency SANA said the army had "reestablished total security in the town of Al-Qusayr," while Hezbollah's Al-Manar television, which has a correspondent on the ground, said the rebels had fled north toward the nearby villages of Dabaa and Buweida Al-Sharqiya.


The Observatory said fighting continued in Dabaa and in Buweida Al-Sharqiya, the last village under rebel control in the area.


SANA said regime forces had seized a number of tunnels where rebels had been hiding, and that "they surrendered in large numbers."


It also said troops, who were "continuing to scour the town," had "defused dozens of bombs the terrorists had placed in houses and the streets to block the army's advance."


The Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a network of activists and medics on the ground, also confirmed the fall of Al-Qusayr.


"The army and Hezbollah have succeeded in taking Al-Qusayr after an intense bombardment of the town overnight," it said. "The rebels have withdrawn to other areas because they were short of ammunition."


The offensive on the Al-Qusayr region was launched on May 19, spearheaded by Hezbollah and backed by Assad's forces.


Rebels put up fierce resistance in the town, only some 10 kilometers from the frontier, and were later joined by hundreds of Sunni Muslim reinforcements from Lebanon, most close to the Muslim Brotherhood.


That led to pitched battles in which civilians, many of them wounded, became trapped.


Doctors had appealed for the Red Cross to be allowed in to treat the wounded, but Syrian officials said this would only be permitted once the rebels had been defeated.


Civilians who had managed to flee Al-Qusayr described it as "a ghost town, heavily damaged and filled with the sound of bombs," the UN refugee agency UNHCR said on Tuesday.


Those who had escaped were mainly women and children, because men risked being killed at checkpoints, said spokesperson Melissa Fleming.


Meanwhile, residents in Beirut’s Hezbollah stronghold, the southern suburbs known as Dahiyeh, celebrated the victory of Hezbollah and the Syrian regime forces against rebels in the district of Al-Qusayr.


A picture posted on a Facebook page entitled “lovers of Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah” showed Hezbollah members offering sweets in Dahiyeh on the occasion.


The pictures also shows flags of Hezbollah risen along the street with banners reading: “Al-Qusayr fell.”


The Lebanese political scene is split between pro-Syrian regime parties affiliated with the March 8 alliance – spearheaded by Hezbollah – and pro-Western forces associated with the March 14 coalition.


Hezbollah's fighting on the side of the Syrian regime has angered Sunni religious figures and politicians across Lebanon, while sectarian fighting in Tripoli since late May has left at least 35 people dead.

A Syrian regime soldier sits in a tank in Al-Qusayr. (AFP)

Control of Qusayr was vital for the rebels as it was their principal transit point for weapons and fighters from neighboring Lebanon.

  • Vlad Tepes

    I wonder if the FSA will make the claim that they brokered a deal with Hezbollah for each and every town they are run out from. What a disgrace! Congratulations to the people of Qusair now free from terror!

    June 8, 2013