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Middle East

Syrian army regains strategic city of Qusayr

Strategic southwest city has been under siege for more than two weeks.

Last Modified: 06 Jun 2013 04:42
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Cheers and celebrations have greeted Syrian government forces after winning a decisive battle against the rebels in Qusayr.

The Syrian army has regained control of the strategic city on the border with Lebanon on Wendesday after weeks of fierce fighting.

"Our heroic armed forces have returned security and stability to all of the town of Qusayr," a statement carried by the station said on Wednesday. 

Rebels confirmed they had pulled out of Qusayr, where they had fought fierce battles with government forces, who are backed by Lebanese Hezbollah fighters, for more than two weeks.

One Hezbollah fighter told the Reuters news agency that they took the town in a rapid overnight offensive, allowing some of the fighters to flee.

"We did a sudden surprise attack in the early hours and entered the town. They escaped," he said.

The city, where civilians have been trapped without access to water and electricity for weeks, is on a critical cross-border supply route between Lebanon and Syria.

 Al Jazeera's Rula Amin, reporting from the Lebanese capital Beirut, said state TV's report had been preceded by earlier government forces' gains on the battle field.

"What we know is that the government made significant advances yesterday," she said.

Qusayr remains a strategically important town for government troops and the Hezbollah fighters battling alongside regime forces, said our correspondent.

Iran, which backs Hezbollah and the Syrian regime, was quick to congratulate the army and the Syrian people for their victory over the rebels.

Foreign Minister Hossen Amir Abdolahia called the rebels the "takfiri terrorists", using a term for Sunni fighters who comprise the majority of the country's rebels, according to the AFP.

Missile hits Aleppo 

News of Qusayr's recapture came amid reports that a missile had struck near the country's biggest city, Aleppo, killing 26 people.

Analysis: The Fall of Qusayr

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), an activist network, said on Tuesday that there were numerous dead on both government and rebel sides but gave no other details.

The SOHR also said shellfire near the Russian embassy in Damascus had killed a civilian and wounded a member of the security forces.

A representative of the Russian embassy in Damascus told the AFP news agency two Syrian security guards had sustained injuries but that no embassy staff had been killed or hurt in the attack.

Qusayr had come under renewed missile and air attack on Tuesdasy as fighting there dragged into a third week.

The situation there prompted fresh calls for humanitarian access to offer some relief to the thousands trapped by government forces.

Meanwhile, US-based group Human Rights Watch said its mission to Aleppo had concluded that the bodies of 147 men pulled out of a local river between January and March were "probably" executed in government-controlled areas of the city.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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