Syria regime takes key Qusayr objective, army claims

Syria regime takes key Qusayr objective, army claims

BEIRUT - Agence France-Presse
Syria regime takes key Qusayr objective, army claims

A image grab taken from a video uploaded on Youtube on May 24, shows smoke billowing from buildings in the city of Qusayr, in Syria's central Homs province, following an alleged missile strike by Hezbollah. AFP photo

Syrian forces entered a key objective north of the besieged central town of Qusayr on May 25, the army said, battling rebels inside the former military airport of Dabaa.

"The Syrian army infiltrated Dabaa airport from the northwest, and now fighting is taking place inside the airport after they broke the rebel defence lines," an army source said.

Activists said elite troops from the army and its ally, the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah, led the attack. The former military airport lies just outside Qusayr on the only road north of the town. Intense clashes rocked Qusayr on Saturday, a watchdog reported, as regime forces backed by Hezbollah fighters pressed an assault they launched six days ago.

Shelling of unprecedented intensity

Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP "the fighting and shelling, which took place on May 25 on the main roads inside and outside of Qusayr, are the most intense since the beginning of the offensive." He said Qusayr, rebel areas north of the town like Hamdiyeh, Dabaa and Arjuneh have been subjected to heavy bombardment by regime forces using surface-to-surface missiles.

Qusayr is a key prize for the rebels, a conduit through which weapons and fighters can be channelled from Lebanon, only about 10 kilometres (six miles) away.

It is also important for Bashar al-Assad's forces because of its strategic location between Damascus and the Mediterranean coast, the Alawite heartland of the embattled president's regime.

Rahman said "the intensification of the fighting can be explained by Hezbollah's desire to score points before the speech their leader Hassan Nasrallah is due to deliver this evening," marking the 13th anniversary of Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon.

On May 24, anti-regime demonstrators across Syria denounced the Hezbollah chief, waving placards reading "Nasrallah, impostor of the resistance," and "Homs is not Jerusalem," a reference to the group's slogan about liberating Jerusalem.