According to a senior fighter with the group and residents of border towns and villages in Lebanon, Hezbollah had been instrumental in the planning for Qusayr’s takeover. In the estimation of U.S. officials, there are 2,000 to 2,500 Hezbollah fighters in Syria.
In Syria and President Assad’s troops made major strides against rebel forces with the help of the Shiite militant group Hezebollah in fierce fighting Sunday in the key town of Qusair located on Syria’s border with Lebanon.
More than 50 people have been killed, and the fighting has spilled over into parts of the neighboring country, Lebanon. Sources have told Al Arabiya that nearly 20 of the dead were caused by Hezbollah militia.
Syria has fired rockets that have struck the outskirts of Lebanon, damaging property there. They have reported no casualties have been reported from the rocket attacks so far.
Assad’s troops have launched an operation to recapture the rebel stronghold Qusair. “Stability,” according to the regime-backed state media in Syria, has been restored in the town. The opposition group, however, has refuted this claim.
This past April, the Iran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah took over at least 14 villages around Qusayr. The group has said it will defend Mr. Assad against what it called a conspiracy by Israel, the U.S. and Sunni Arab dynasties in the Persian Gulf.
In the country of Lebanon, hundreds of civilians, fearing a “massacre” in the region, are attempting to flee the conflict zone, according to local reports.
An activist who goes by the name of Mohammad al-Qusair reported to the Lebanon-based Daily Star: “It is the biggest assault yet, they [the regime] are using all their firepower.”
Assad’s forces, backed by at least 1,000 ground troops, have deployed fighter jets and tanks which are bombarding the region, reports from the region suggest.
These attacks have helped sway the battle, though rebel forces have not been driven from the area yet. The offensive continued throughout the night.
Hadi Abdallah, another anti-regime activist, in a report from Qusair, told Reuters:
“The army is hitting Qusair with tanks and artillery from the north and east while Hezbollah is firing mortar rounds and multiple rocket launchers from the south and west.”
The activist added, noting the importance of Qusair: “There are several different strategic, diplomatic, and political factors that make Qusair particularly important. It is the heartland of the Alawite community, it has been used as a conduit for supplies, men and guns going in to Syria and it is close to Lebanon. Assad wants to make sure he is in the strongest position possible if this conference takes place.”
Located in Homs province, Qusair has become the new battleground. It seems as if the civil-war-turned uprising in Syria is developing into a Shiite-Sunni sectarian issue.
Written by: Douglas Cobb