Assad had to rely on Hezbollah to seize Qusair: US

The US has reiterated its call for Hezbollah and Iran fighters to withdraw from Syria.

Updated: Jun 06, 2013, 13:37 PM IST

Zee Media Bureau

Washington: Strongly condemning the capture of the key town of Qusair by Syrian Army, the US has reiterated its call for Hezbollah and Iran fighters to withdraw from Syria, saying that Assad`s troops couldn`t have regained the town without foreign fighters` support.

A statement issued by the White House said, "The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the Assad regime`s assault on Qusayr, which has killed untold numbers of civilians and is causing tremendous humanitarian suffering".

White House spokesman Jay Carney slammed Assad regime on the fall of Qusair, saying, "It is clear that the regime could not contest the opposition`s control of Qusair on its own, and is depending upon Hezbollah and Iran to do its work for it in Qusair."

He said Syria`s government must allow the UN and others to evacuate Qusair`s wounded and provide medical treatment.

The town of Qusair is a key gain for Assad regime as it is a strategic town situated near Lebanon border and falls along the major weapons supply routes.

Qusair`s fall could boost the momentum for Syrian troops in rolling back rebel gains in other parts of central Homs province.

Over the past two months, the Syrian army has moved steadily against rebels in key battleground areas, making advances near the border with Lebanon and considerably lowering the threat to Damascus, the seat of Assad`s government.

Regime forces leveled row after row of buildings in recent days to deny the rebels cover, and TV footage showed the town`s church pockmarked with bullets and its mosque`s dome damaged. About a dozen corpses could be seen on the ground.

Outnumbered and outgunned, rebel fighters held out for weeks after the regime launched its assault on Qusair on May 19. They inflicted heavier than expected casualties on the Hezbollah forces who joined the battle, forcing the group to acknowledge its involvement as dozens of its fighters were brought home for burial.

But the rebels were running short of ammunition, and they finally withdrew from the town after an intense bombardment overnight. Fighting continued Wednesday in areas on the northern edge of town where the rebels retreated.

Qusair — formerly home to some 40,000 people — was key for both sides.

It lies on a land corridor linking two Assad strongholds, the capital of Damascus and an area along the Mediterranean coast that is the heartland of his minority Alawite sect.

For the rebels, Qusair was a crucial conduit for weapons, fighters and supplies smuggled into Syria from Lebanon.

The fall of Qusair provides the best evidence to date that the growing participation of Hezbollah fighters alongside Assad`s troops is a potential game changer in the more than 2-year-old conflict that has left more than 70,000 people dead.

With Agency Inputs