Syrian army seeks to capture heartland

Syrian army seeks to capture heartland

Syrian army seeks to capture heartland

Syrian soldiers stand in a truck in Qusayr after they recaptured the town.

With fresh momentum from the capture of a strategic town in western Syria, President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have turned their sights to driving rebel fighters from the country’s densely populated heartland, including the cities of Homs and Aleppo.

Syrian government forces were trying to mop up final pockets of rebel resistance north of Qusayr, the border town which it retook on June 5 bolstered by Lebanese Hezbollah fighters.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said President Bashar al-Assad’s forces were also sending reinforcements to Aleppo province, where large swathes of territory have been in rebel hands for months. “Clashes broke out at dawn between the army and rebels on the outskirts of Dabaa village” north of Qusayr, said the Britain-based group, adding Hezbollah forces were involved.

‘Aim: Cut supply lines from Turkey’

A second rebel bastion north of Qusayr, Eastern Bweida where rebels and many wounded civilians fled after the fall of Qusayr, was still being bombarded by the regime. “The army is seeking to impose its complete control of Qusayr and the surrounding area,” activists said.

“It is leaving no way out for the rebels, and also not for the wounded or for civilians. It wants to annihilate the rebels or take them prisoner.”

The Observatory said government forces were also massing “in their thousands” in Aleppo province, aiming primarily to take territory along the border with Turkey. “They want to cut rebel supply lines from Turkey.”