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Syrian troops recapture strategic city as rebels attribute victory to Hezbollah's support


08:08, June 06, 2013

DAMASCUS, June 5 (Xinhua) -- The Syrian army on Wednesday scored a sweeping victory against the rebels by stripping them of the strategic central city of al-Qussair, while opposition leaders to attribute the army's victory to the backing of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.


Earlier on Wednesday, the Syrian troops regained full control of al-Qussair in Homs province after more than two weeks of " precise" and "qualitative" operation, according to the state-TV.

The Syrian army pushed its way into al-Qussair located near the border with Lebanon more than two weeks ago after taking control of its suburb following 46 days of battling. The operation aimed at cutting the rebels' main supply line in the central region of the country.

As the army declared victory Wednesday, the rebels reportedly announced their withdrawal from al-Qussair overnight "after the Syrian army and Hezbollah fighters committed a massacre that killed hundreds of people."

The Syrian army, however, dismissed the massacre report and said in a statement that "We assure our people in general and al- Qussair's citizens in particular that the army troops have evicted the civilians that were used by the rebels as human shields and the wounded people are being treated."

The army, moreover, called on the citizens of al-Qussair to return to their homes.

Taleb Ibrahim, a political expert, told Xinhua recently that al- Qussair's importance lies in its location, which is in a mountainous area overlooking Syria's border with Lebanon.

The city's proximity to the Lebanese town of Arsal has made it a main smuggling route of weapons and armed men into Homs, Ibrahim said, adding that regaining control over the city would deprive the armed rebels of their main supply line and would thus deal a heavy blow to their very existence in Homs and central Syria as a whole.

Turki Hasan, another political expert, told Xinhua Wednesday that the retrieval of al-Qussair by Syrian troops has great significance in restraining military activities of Syrian rebels, adding the rebels lost an important strategic location near the border with Lebanon.

"Al-Qussair is of a special importance in the war against our country for more than two years. Al-Qussair is a border city and thus it has become a center for luring, preparing and arming the terrorists who spread from the city to the provinces of Homs and Hama and to the suburbs of Damascus," Hasan said.

Meanwhile, Salim Harba, a military expert, told Xinhua that the Syrian army entered its a comfortable zone after its victory.


Opposition activists claim that the Hezbollah group is fighting alongside the government troops in al-Qussair as the group is known of being an important ally of the Syrian administration.

They charged that Hezbollah's participation tweaked the balance in favor of the Syrian troops, calling on Hezbollah's leader, Hasan Nasrallah, to withdraw his fighters from Syria.

Salim Idris, the leader of the rebels Free Syrian Army, told the Saudi-funded al-Arabia that around 15,000 Hezbollah fighters are currently fighting alongside the Syrian army nationwide.

Turki Hasan told Xinhua that Hezbollah's involvement was on a very small scale, adding that the victory was won by the Syrian army. He slammed the outcry against Hezbollah and said similar voices were not heard when tens of thousands of foreign radical fighters slipped into Syria and fought against the army.

Last month, Hasan Nasrallah defended his group involvement in the Syrian fight.

"If Syria falls into the hands of America or Israel, ... the people of our region will enter a dark period," he said, adding " If we do not go there to fight them ... they will come here."

Hezbollah previously claimed that its fighters were protecting scores of Lebanese Shiite border towns that were threatened by the radical rebels in Syria.

Syria's opposition charges that the Shiite militant group is helping the Syrian administration, which is controlled by leaders from the Alawite minority of the Shiite Islam, against the Sunni- led insurgency.

On Wednesday, Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi said the pan-Arab bloc condemned what he called the military intervention in Syria by Hezbollah.

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