Syrian rebels lose strategic town in boost for Assad

Reuters reports: Syrian government forces and their Lebanese Hezbollah allies seized control of the border town of Qusair on Wednesday, dealing a major defeat to rebel fighters battling to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

Two weeks of heavy fighting reduced many buildings to mounds of twisted concrete, whole blocks flattened by shelling, with glass and rubble littering the streets as tired but delighted Syrian soldiers gathered at the bullet-riddled clock tower.

“We will not hesitate to crush with an iron fist those who attack us. … Their fate is surrender or death,” the Syrian armed forces command said in statement. “We will continue our string of victories until we regain every inch of Syrian land.”

An opposition group from the town said more than 500 rebels had died in two weeks of fighting, with a further 1,000 wounded, leaving just 400 outgunned men struggling to hold onto the town.

Facing determined Hezbollah guerrillas from neighboring Lebanon, who swung the fight Assad’s way, the survivors decided to escape in the night through a corridor that the attackers said they had deliberately left open to encourage flight.

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