After three weeks of often intense artillery barrages and air strikes, Hezbollah took over Qusayr near the border with Lebanon.
While the Syrian government is proclaiming victory, the Syrian government was the tale on the dog — it was a Hezbollah operation.
But NOW Lebanon reports the victory may not be all it seems, and may have been a negotiated end to avoid a civilian massacre:
Syria’s army routed rebels from the strategic town of Al-Qusayr on Wednesday following a blistering offensive led by Hezbollah fighters, scoring a major battlefield success in a drawn-out civil war that has killed thousands.
The Al-Qusayr region, located in the central province of Homs next to the Lebanese border, is strategic because it links Damascus to the coast and is a conduit for fighters and weapons for the army and the rebels.
Its fall opens the way for President Bashar al-Assad’s forces to move on the city of Homs, where rebels still control many neighborhoods.
The insurgents conceded they had lost the battle for Al-Qusayr.
“Yes our brothers, this a round that we have lost,” the General Commission of the Syrian Revolution said on its Facebook page, while adding that rebels seeking to oust Assad “will continue to fight the thousands of Lebanese mercenaries.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the army and fighters from Hezbollah, Lebanon’s powerful Shiite movement, were in control of the town.
Meanwhile, a well-informed source close to Lebanese Speaker Nabih Berri told NOW that rebels withdrew from Al-Qusayr as a result of an agreement brokered by the speaker between the insurgents and Hezbollah.
“The rebels withdrew from Al-Qusayr in exchange for lifting the siege off the district and the evacuation of civilians and injured people,” the source told NOW.
Hezbollah and Iran are celebrating the victory:
A rebel commander in contact with the brigades that retreated said the decision to withdraw was taken after a day of rocket fire from the Syrian army and Hezbollah that “levelled what had remained” of Qusair.
In the Hezbollah stronghold of southern Beirut, residents set off celebratory fireworks as news of Qusair’s fall spread.
In the Lebanese town of Qasr close to Syria, crowds waved Hezbollah and Syrian flags in jubilation. Locals distributed sweets to mark the rebel.
So what comes next? Maybe more Assad victories on the backs of Hezbollah, or maybe a widening sectarian war and bloodletting, Idriss: Syria rebels ready to move battles into Lebanon, via Daily Star of Lebanon:
Salim Idriss, the commander of the Syrian rebel forces, warned Wednesday that fighters seeking to oust President Bashar Assad could target Hezbollah in Lebanon if authorities failed to put a stop to the resistance group’s activities in Syria.
“The fighters are ready to move the battles into Lebanon to confront Hezbollah members fighting alongside the Syrian regime forces,” the Free Syrian Army commander told BBC.
“The Syrian opposition will have to take necessary measures if the Lebanese authorities fail to end Hezbollah’s interference in Syria battles,” he added.
The remarks of Idriss came as Syrian rebels conceded defeat to Hezbollah-backed regime troops in the Homs town of Qusair early Wednesday.
The Syrian commander also said that “there are now a very large number of Hezbollah fighters in Syria’s Qusair, Aleppo and Damascus.”
“I can say they are everywhere in the country,” he said.
— Marwan Bishara (@marwanbishara) June 5, 2013
Update: There isn’t confirmation of this yet, but I would not be surprised to see car bombings and other suicide bombings directed at Hezbollah and Lebanon as a result of Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria:
Jihadi sources: a Jabhat al-Nusra suicide bombing in Qusayr, Syria has killed more than 60 Hezbollah fighters and wounded hundreds more.
— Evan Kohlmann (@IntelTweet) June 5, 2013
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