London, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Syrian government has launched an attack over the last 48 hours on the strategic town of Qusayr, which lies near the Lebanese border. Hezbollah fighters were reported to be fighting alongside government forces. Reports said the fighting was intense with both sides claiming the upper hand.
Asharq Al-Awsat quoted the Free Syrian Army (FSA) as saying it was in control of the town and that the fighting was limited to the outskirts. The paper said the state-run media were reporting that the army was in control of the town and that many rebels had been killed or captured.
London’s Guardian newspaper said the fighting in Qusayr represented the first time that Sunni Al-Qaeda and Shi’ite Hezbollah had clashed directly and at such a scale, in Syria or elsewhere.
The BBC said there was “fierce fighting for the key Syrian town of Qusayr”. Its correspondent Jim Muir said Qusayr had fallen to the Syrian military and that the rebels were blaming the drying up of arms supplies for their loss.
Meanwhile, former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri criticized the government for ignoring Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria. He said on his twitter account that “Hezbollah’s war inside Syria represented a clear declaration by Hezbollah that this country was a state with no authority to armed bullies.”
Yesterday, rebels claimed “great success” in the town and accused Hezbollah of killing 23 children. Unconfirmed reports cited by Reuters said Hezbollah lost some 30 men in the fighting while Syrian government forces lost around 20.
In another development, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet that Israel was prepared for all possible scenarios with regards to Syria. This followed a report in London’s Sunday Times that Syria had placed its surface-to-surface missile systems on alert, ready to fire at Tel Aviv should Israel strike Syria again.
Outside Syria, members of the fractious Syrian opposition, including members of the FSA, met today in Madrid, in another attempt to reach a common position on various issues related to the conflict, ahead of the international conference on the Syrian conflict proposed by the US and Russia. The opposition is also due to meet again in Istanbul next week to elect a leader for the coalition, following the resignation of Moaz Al-Khatib on April 22, 2013.