Syrian troops launched an assault on the rebel-held town of Qusair, killing at least 70 people. The town, located near the country’s border with Lebanon, has been under siege by the army for weeks.
Qusair is important to both sides of the Syrian conflict, because of its location. The rebels have been able to come and go from neighboring Lebanon.
For the Syrian government, holding Qusair would mean the government has access from the capital to the coast. Syrian opposition activists have said that heavy shelling on Sunday killed at least 30 people, including 16 rebel fighters.
Meanwhile, Syrian state television stated that 70 “terrorists” died in the shelling. The government often refers to the rebel fighters as terrorists. Lebanese militants are reportedly involved in the fight. While Hezbollah is siding with the government, Sunni gunmen are helping the rebels.
Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, stated that troops were advancing on Qusair from the south, while Hezbollah fighters played “a central role. He added, “Soldiers and tanks are trying to advance into the town, the rebel forces are attempting to push them back.”
Qusair has been under siege for weeks by regime troops and pro-government militias. The siege has been part of the regime’s offensive aimed at regaining control of towns long the Syria-Lebanon border. A government official in the nearby provincial capital of Homs stated that the Syrian troops were launching “the offensive to liberate Qusair.”
The official added that the army has built up forces on three fronts around Qusair, while leaving one passage clear for “safe passage for fleeing civilians and the armed terrorists who want to surrender.” Government forces have reportedly advanced into the town and have taken over the municipality building and other vital government buildings. However, one activist denied that the regime has advanced into the town at all, explaining that the municipality was destroyed in fighting six months ago.
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