Qusair emerging as key strategic town in Syrian civil war
The Syrian army, reinforced with an unknown number of Hezb'allah militia fighters, is making a supreme effort to recapture the town of Qusair, a key strategic link for both rebels and government forces.
Syrian government offensives in recent weeks are widely seen as a campaign to strengthen Assad's negotiating position before a proposed international peace conference sponsored by the United States and Russia.
Opposition activists said Syrian troops backed by Lebanese Hezbollah fighters were pressing a sustained assault on Qusair, a town long used by insurgents as a way station for arms and other supplies from Lebanon.
For Assad, Qusair is a crucial link between Damascus and loyalist strongholds on the Mediterranean coast. Recapturing the town, in central Homs province, could also sever connections between rebel-held areas in the north and south of Syria.
Hezbollah's deepening involvement in Qusair has raised fears of renewed civil war in neighboring Lebanon, where two rockets hit the Shi'ite Muslim movement's stronghold in south Beirut on Sunday and one was fired from south Lebanon towards Israel.
The rockets struck hours after Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah promised that his anti-Israel guerrillas, fighting alongside Assad's forces, would win whatever the cost.
A Lebanese security source said another 107mm rocket, which did not go off, had been aimed at Beirut airport. The launch sites were near Aitat, in the hills just south of the capital.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced "deep concern" overnight at Hezbollah's admitted combat role and the risk that the Syrian conflict will spill into Lebanon and other neighboring states.
Ban urged all concerned "immediately to cease supporting the violence inside Syria and instead to use their influence to promote a political solution to Syria's tragedy".
There are also reports of further chemical attacks on civilians in rebel held areas, but few are paying attention. President Assad has figured out as long as he keeps the body count to a minimum,. he can use his gas munitions as terror weapons, scattering civilians and making them less likely to support the rebels.
Assad may be ready to deal but what about the rebels? The political opposition has yet to come to any sort of agreement on what their negotiating position should be. Many don't want to negotiate at all. Assad will use this split to either find some way to take the pressure off his military, or perhaps carve out an independent zone for he and his alawite allies to live in.
It's far from being over in Syria.