The Syrian army, with the assistance of Lebanese fighters from Hezbollah, launched an offensive to re-take the town from rebels on May 19, surrounding it and pummelling it with air strikes and artillery fire.
The town occupies a strategic position, linking Damascus with the heartland of Syria’s Alawite population along the coast, from which president Assad, an Alawite, draws much of his troops and support.
It also formed part of an important supply line linking anti-government fighters in Syria with sympathisers in Lebanon.
Syrian State TV announced that the army had “restored security and peace” to Al-Qusayr, while rebel fighters released a statement on Wednesday morning admitting that they had withdrawn from the town.
The rebels blamed superior government firepower and the presence of Hezbollah for their defeat, saying that they had no chance of victory “in the face of this huge arsenal and lack of supplies and the blatant intervention of Hezbollah.”
Hezbollah forces are reported to have suffered at least 200 casualties in the battles in and around the town.
At the height of the fighting, rebel forces are estimated to have reached a peak of 3000, composed of local fighters, army defectors and reinforcements drawn from across Syria, together with smaller numbers of international fighters, some linked to Jabhat Al-Nusra, an Islamist group with links to Al-Qaeda.
Much of the town’s population is believed to have fled the fighting in recent weeks. The town appeared deserted in footage broadcast on Syrian television. One witness to the fighting told the Associated Press news agency that the town was “deserted,” while rebel sources told London’s Guardian newspaper earlier this week that half of the town’s population of 30,000 had escaped.