In recent months the city had served as a stronghold for opposition forces battling to bring down the Bashar al-Assad regime. Rebels first took the northern half of the town in a two-month battle more than a year ago. Three weeks ago the combined Syria-Hezbollah forces launched a major push to regain the town. Some 300 civilians, 250 rebel troops and 100 Hezbollah fighters have thus far died in the campaign.
For the Syrian regime, control over Qusayr is critical to regaining the momentum in its bloody two-year civil war with anti-government rebels. The town sits on the only main roadway leading from Syria to the Bekaa Valley, one of Lebanon’s three Hezbollah strongholds. The group’s other bastions are southern Lebanon and south Beirut. Regime control over Qusayr is also critical to ensuring it retains hold of the coastal area around Tartus – home to a Russian naval base and heavily populated by the regime’s Alawite base.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights cited the Iran-backed terror group as being instrumental in the regime’s victory. Meanwhile Iran – the patron of both the Syrian regime and Hezbollah – offered “congratulations” to its Syrian client over its achievement.
“Certain sides that continue to support the shipment of arms and terrorist acts against Syria are responsible for the killing of the people and destruction of Syria,” Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said, according to Tehran’s English-language Press TV. “They should be tried as war criminals…”
Hezbollah claims to have lost five fighters in the battle for the city. The group’s involvement in the Syrian conflict has rebounded back into Lebanon – both opposition forces and the regime have fired into Lebanon – and now threatens to embroil the region in a wider Sunni-Shiite war.