Beirut: Activists say forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have unleashed their heaviest artillery barrage in a week to dislodge rebels from a strategic western town.
Pro-Assad troops, including fighters from the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, launched an offensive against the rebel-held town of Qusair a week ago. They have gained ground, but rebels continue to hold some positions.
Local activist Hadi Abdullah and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights say the artillery barrage began early today. The regime wants to recapture Qusair to open a land corridor between its strongholds in the capital Damascus and on the Mediterranean coast.
The Qusair offensive has highlighted Hezbollah`s growing role in Syria`s civil war. Today`s push comes ahead of a speech by Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, his first since the offensive began.