Naharnet

Rebels Say they Lost Battle for Qusayr but Vow to Fight 'Lebanese Mercenaries'

Syria's rebels conceded on Tuesday they had lost the battle for the strategic town of Qusayr but vowed to fight “thousands of Lebanese mercenaries” after the army seized total control of it and the surrounding region.

The main opposition National Coalition shrugged off the defeat, declaring the "revolution will continue".

At the same time, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said fighters from Hizbullah, who had spearheaded the regime's assault, were in control of the town.

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

It is also strategic for the regime because it is located on the road linking Damascus with the coast, its rear base.

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

That was a reference to Hizbullah, a close ally of Assad's regime.

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

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

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 "The rebels have withdrawn to other areas because they were short of ammunition."

Official news agency Sana said the army had "reestablished total security in the town of Qusayr," while Hizbullah'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.

Later, Syria's main opposition group said that the armed uprising against the regime of Assad will carry on despite the fall Wednesday of the strategic town of Qusayr.

"The blessed revolution will continue. Victory is on the side of the righteous, who resisted in the face of oppression and injustice," the National Coalition said in a statement.

The Coalition called on "the United Nations and the great powers to fulfill their responsibility and intervene urgently to protect the civilians".

It also said the world must also "put a stop to the Assad regime's vengeful practices".

Assad forces and Hizbullah fighters launched an offensive on May 19 to retake the Qusayr region, which abuts Lebanon's northeastern border.

Source: Agence France Presse, Naharnet


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