Saturday, June 8, 2013

Syrian forces capture final rebel stronghold in Qusair region

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian government troops backed by Hezbollah guerrillas seized the western village of Buwayda on Saturday, ending rebel resistance around the town of Qusair in a fresh success for President Bashar al-Assad.

The swift fall of Buwayda came just three days after rebels were swept out of Qusair, denying them an important supply route into neighbouring Lebanon and giving renewed momentum to Assad's forces battling a two-year civil war.

Several opposition activists confirmed Buwayda was in government hands and said dozens of rebels, including a number of foreign fighters, had been captured alive. There was no immediate word of their fate.

"We can now declare Qusair and the surrounding area to be a fully liberated area. We will go after the terrorists wherever they are," an unnamed, senior Syrian army officer told state television from the rubble-filled streets of Buwayda.

Fighting flared elsewhere in Syria, including close to the capital Damascus and in the northern Aleppo province, which is expected to be the focus of renewed attack by Assad's forces following the collapse of the Qusair rebel front.

In Syria's third city Homs, an epicenter of the anti-government revolt, a suicide bomber detonated a car full of explosives in a pro-Assad neighborhood, killing seven people, Syrian television reported.

Three women were among the dead and at least 10 people were wounded, with the video showing pools of blood on the ground and at least one badly charred body.

The report could not be independently verified as the Syrian government restricts access to independent media.

The United Nations estimates at least 80,000 people have died in the conflict. U.N. humanitarian agencies launched a $5 billion appeal on Friday, the biggest in their history, to cope with the fallout from the fighting that has sent some 1.6 million refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries.