FSA: Mustafa Badreddine Leading Hizbullah Operations in Qusayrإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
The rebel Free Syrian Army on Monday claimed that Hizbullah elusive commander Mustafa Badreddine -- who is accused of involvement in former premier Rafik Hariri's murder – is leading the group's operations in the Syrian town of Qusayr.
“It has been confirmed that Mustafa Badreddine is present on Qusayr's front where he is leading Hizbullah's operations,” said a statement issued by the FSA.
“With the beginning of the first day of the Death Walls series of operations on Sunday, the Hizbullah gang suffered more than 50 casualties among its ranks, while more than 100 members were wounded, most of them critically,” the FSA added.
It noted that dozens of ambulances were seen transporting the dead and the wounded to the Baalbek-Hermel area and that al-Batoul Hospital in Hermel was “evacuated of civilian patients with the aim of taking in dozens of wounded and dead fighters.”
The FSA accused Hizbullah members of “executing 23 children and women in a massacre near the Christian town of Rableh, which is occupied by Hizbullah, while chanting sectarian slogans.”
The rebels stressed that "Qusayr will shock them, despite all the forms of siege, death and destruction,” noting that “all the Hizbullah members who tried to infiltrate the city through the groves were killed.”
Badreddine is a cousin and brother-in-law of slain Hizbullah military commander Imad Mughniyeh.
He was accused along with three other Hizbullah members of involvement in Hariri's 2005 assassination.
Badreddine is a member of Hizbullah’s Shoura Council and the head of its external operations. He was arrested and imprisoned in Kuwait in 1983.
In 1990, he managed to escape prison and flee to Iran where the Revolutionary Guard returned him to Beirut. According to the arrest warrant in the Hariri murder case, he is accused of planning and overseeing the execution of the assassination.
The battle for Qusayr began on Sunday, when government troops backed by Hizbullah stormed the western town.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the fighting had left at least 56 rebels dead, six of them on Monday, and four civilians including one woman.
It also said that "28 members of Hizbullah's elite forces were killed and more than 70 others wounded in clashes in the town of Qusayr yesterday," Sunday.
A source close to Hizbullah told Agence France Presse at least 20 members had been killed in Syria.
The official SANA news agency reported on Monday that Syrian troops "are restoring order and security to the eastern part of Qusayr, eliminating terrorists (the regime term for rebels), destroying their dens and defusing bombs near the center of the town."