Seventy-five fighters from Lebanon’s Hezbollah have been killed in Syria since they first became involved in the country’s war months ago, a source close to the Shiite militant group said on Thursday.
“There have been 57 killed and 18 others who have died of their wounds since the start of its [Hezbollah’s] participation in the war in Syria,” the source told AFP.
Hezbollah combatants have become increasingly involved in Syria’s conflict, fighting alongside President Bashar al-Assad’s forces against an insurgency that flared after a brutal regime crackdown on democracy protests.
Initially Hezbollah said it only wanted to defend 13 Syrian villages along the border where Lebanese Shiites live, and the Sayyeda Zeinab shrine near Damascus, an important Shiite pilgrimage site.
However its elite fighters later encircled Qusayr with regime troops before the launch on Sunday of a withering assault on the strategic border town that is home to 25,000 people.
Hezbollah denied its involvement in Syria for some time, quietly burying fighters killed in Syria.
But the movement stopped hiding its dead when its leader Hassan Nasrallah paid homage to militants killed across the border on April 30.
“Syria has true friends in the region who will not allow Syria to fall into the hands of the United States, Israel and ‘takfiri’ groups,” he said in an interview with the movement’s television channel, Al-Manar.
Waddah Sharara, an expert on the organization, says Hezbollah has some 20,000 fighters, of whom 5,000 to 7,000 have experience of combat. Between 800 and 1,200 of these have been taking part in the battle for Qusayr.
AFP - 05/23/2013
Forty Syrian soldiers and pro-regime militiamen were killed in fighting with rebels who captured an army camp near the town of Nayrab in the northwestern province of Idlib on Wednesday, a watchdog reported.
Rebels took control of the army camp, which was “one of the most important bastions of the regime in the Idlib region,” and several army checkpoints in the area, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“The fighting has killed 14 from the rebel side and not less than 40 among the soldiers of the regular army and members of the Popular Committees [pro-regime militia],” said the Observatory which relies on a network of medics and activists on the ground.
The army used the camp to “bombard many localities in the region of Idlib, leaving hundreds dead and thousands wounded,” it said, adding that the facility also served as a detention center where “dozens of detainees have died under torture”.
AFP - 05/22/2013
05/20/2013 - MAP: Who controls key strategic roads in #Syria ? - BBC
The ongoing clashes in Lebanon’s troubled northern city of Lebanon heated up Tuesday afternoon, leaving at least one person dead and a number others injured.
Sniper activity intensified in rival neighborhoods of Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tebbaneh starting at noon, leading to the death of a 30-year old civilian identified as Mohammad Rashid Sultani, the National News Agency reported.
The report added that two injured people were rushed to Tripoli’s Islamic Charity Hospital, which has hosted a number of other wounded Tripoli residents since the deadly clashes that have killed at least 5 people began Sunday afternoon.
Meanwhile, OTV reported that a Jaba Moshen resident—identified as Youssef al-Saqa—was also killed in the intensifying clashes.
Heavy gunfire rocked the battlefronts amid the explosions of rocket-propelled grenade rounds, local media outlets reported, with Al-Jadeed television saying an ambulance was targeted by sniper fire on the Tripoli-Akkar highway.
The ongoing clashes erupted Sunday afternoon, leaving four people dead before today’s violence, including two Lebanese Armed Forces soldiers who were killed when army troops came under heavy gunfire Monday as they attempted deploy on Syria Street separating Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tebbaneh.
The fighting in Tripoli came as troops backed by Lebanon’s Hezbollah reportedly entered Al-Qusayr, a strategic rebel stronghold linking Damascus to the Mediterranean coast.
Sunni Sheikhs Rafei and Ahmad al-Assir in April had called on Lebanese Sunnis to assist the rebels in Al-Qusayr, however Rafei on Sunday denied that the clashes were linked to the Al-Qusayr campaign.
Jabal Mohsen residents have frequently clashed with locals from neighboring areas in the troubled northern city of Tripoli. These recurrent disputes triggered by sectarian differences also reflect a split in Lebanon’s political scene in which opposition parties back the revolt in Syria while the ruling coalition, led by Hezbollah, supports the Damascus regime.
N O W - 05/21/2013
Syrian troops backed by Lebanon’s Hezbollah on Sunday entered Al-Qusayr, a strategic rebel stronghold linking Damascus to the coast, a day after President Bashar al-Assad insisted he would not quit.
The advance came as Assad’s opponents warned his regime’s “barbaric and destructive” assault on Al-Qusayr could torpedo US-Russian attempts to organize a conference on ending two years of bloodshed in the country.
The Arab League called an emergency meeting for Thursday, ahead of the conference, as the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) demanded it meet and “stop the massacre in Al-Qusayr.”
Forces loyal to Assad launched Sunday’s offensive by heavily bombarding Al-Qusayr with artillery and warplanes early in the morning.
Hours later, a military source told AFP that government forces entered the center of the town, with troops raising the Syrian flag over the recaptured municipality building.
“The Syrian army controls Al-Qusayr’s main square in the center of the city, and the surrounding buildings, including the municipality building,” said the source.
State television said: “Our valiant troops have restored security and stability to the Al-Qusayr municipality building and surrounding buildings and are continuing to hunt down terrorists in the town.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said regime troops began carrying out air strikes backed by artillery fire against the town early on Sunday, before the group operation started.
“The assault on Al-Qusayr has started. There is fierce fighting between rebels and the army around the entrances to the town,” Observator director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
Troops were entering from the south, and fighters from the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, a key ally of the Syrian regime, were “playing a central role,” he added.
“If the army manages to take control of Al-Qusayr, the whole province of Homs will fall,” he said.
The group said the army carried out additional air strikes on Sunday afternoon, and that at least 40 people were killed throughout the day, including 21 rebel fighters.
The regime has made recapturing Al-Qusayr and the surrounding district of Homs province a key objective, and fierce fighting has raged in the vicinity for months.
In recent weeks, government troops backed by Hezbollah and members of the National Defense Forces, a pro-regime militia, have taken a string of villages and reportedly surrounded Al-Qusayr on three sides.
The fighting has spilled over into Lebanon, and on Sunday the country’s National News Agency said eight rockets fired from Syria landed in Lebanese territory, without causing any damage or injuries.
Responding to news of the assault on the city, the SNC, a key component of the main opposition National Coalition, denounced the “barbaric and destructive bombing” of Al-Qusayr.
It accused the regime of working with Hezbollah to “invade the town and wipe it and its residents off the map,” and called for “an urgent meeting of the Arab League to stop the massacre in Al-Qusayr.”
“We say to the countries that are working for a political solution in Syria that allowing this invasion to go ahead in silence… will render any conference and any peace effort meaningless.”
The Syrian military was also advancing on other fronts, taking control of the rebel-held village of Halfaya in Hama province, the Observatory said.
State television reported the army “killed numerous terrorists from Al-Nusra Front in Halfaya” and destroyed weaponry.
In Damascus, a military source said troops were advancing in Barzeh district on the northern outskirts of the city.
The Observatory estimates at least 94,000 people have been killed since the anti-Assad uprising began in March 2011.
AFP - 05/19/2013