Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Battle for Qusayr rages on - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
Select Page
A Syrian army soldier aims his weapon during a battle against opposition fighters in the city of Qusayr, in Syria's central Homs province, on May 23, 2013. (AFP)

A Syrian army soldier aims his weapon during a battle against opposition fighters in the city of Qusayr, in Syria’s central Homs province, on May 23, 2013. (AFP)

London/Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—The ongoing battle for Al-Qusayr, a strategically important Syrian town close to the Lebanese border, continues to rage on, with Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters flooding the area to try and win back the town from Assad regime forces.

Lebanese Hezbollah and the Syrian Republican Guard sent military reinforcements to Qusayr earlier this month in an attempt to recapture the last remaining rebel strongholds in the central Homs province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

A key military source on the ground informed Asharq Al-Awsat that approximately 1,700 rebel fighters, mostly affiliated to Aleppo’s rebel Al-Tawhid Brigade, have arrived in Qusayr to fight against both the regime’s forces and Hezbollah.

The source, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, said that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) has “fielded tens of thousands of fighters from the suburbs of Homs, Aleppo, Idlib and Deir Ezzor” in an attempt to “rescue” the city from the regime forces.

He added, “The battle will be decisive, given Qusayr’s strategic location,” noting that the FSA possesses “strong combat capabilities in terms of fighters and weapons.”

The interim president of the opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC), George Sabra, also confirmed on Friday that opposition fighters are flooding into Qusayr, which had been under rebel control for months before the Assad regime moved to retake the town two weeks ago.

“More than 1,000 FSA fighters from all over Syria are now joining the resistance inside Qusayr to defend against the foreign terrorist invaders, who are infiltrating our country from Lebanon and other places,” Sabra said in a reference to Hezbollah.

In an interview with the Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Manar TV, embattled Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad had said that he was confident of victory.

“There is a world war being waged against Syria and the policy of (anti-Israeli) resistance…(but) we are very confident of victory,” he said.

However the battle for Qusayr, and the key part being played by Hezbollah in this, has also intensified tensions between Lebanon’s Hezbollah and rest of the region, including regional allies such as Iraq’s Sadrist movement.

A senior member of the Sadrist Movement, refused to reveal details of the recent dispute that has erupted between Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah and Moqtada Al-Sadr, saying: “Moqtada Al-Sadr formulates his positions based on Iraqi and Arab principles, and he sides with Arab peoples’ freedom and their right to self-determination.”

The Sadrist leader, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, said: “I do not know if it is a dispute or a difference of opinion between the two leaders…. disagreement is normal and does not necessary mean hatred.”

However a Baghdad official confirmed that deep divisions have erupted between the two Shi’ite leaders over Nasrallah’s continuing support for the Assad regime.

The Iraqi official told Asharq AL-Awsat: “Sadr believes that it is wrong for Shi’ites to become embroiled in the Syrian crisis by supporting Assad against the Syrian people…This will incite hatred of Shi’ites who have historically suffered from oppression and injustice in Iraq.”