At least 40 Hezbollah fighters have been reportedly killed in the Syrian town of Qusayr late on Sunday, sources told Al Arabiya, following clashes between Syrian rebels and regime forces who attempted to enter the town earlier in the day.
Sources also told Al Arabiya that tens of Hezbollah members were wounded during the fight and had been taken to hospitals in Beirut, Lebanon for treatment.
The assault on Qusayr appeared to be part of a campaign by President Bashar al-Assad's forces to consolidate their grip on Damascus and secure links between the capital and the government strongholds on the coast via the contested central city of Homs.
State news agency SANA said the army had "restored security and stability to most Qusayr neighborhoods" and was "chasing the remnants of the terrorists in the northern district".
Meanwhile, sources said that Hezbollah official Fady al-Jazzar was reportedly among those killed. Al-Jazzar is considered to be a high ranking Hezbollah officer and was imprisoned in Israel until he returned to Lebanon in a prisoner-exchange deal.
News on his death came after contact was lost with the group that was under his command, Al Arabiya said.
Hezbollah denies taking part in Syria’s two-year conflict – which has killed at least 80,000 people, according to the U.N. However, the group – an ally of the Syrian regime – has held regular funerals of Hezbollah fighters, who – it said – were killed serving their “jihadi duties.”
Earlier in the day, Syrian State TV reported that Syrian troops had entered the center of the rebel stronghold of Qusayr, seizing the town’s main square and its municipality building.
However, Hadi Abdullah, a Syrian activist speaking from Qusayr, denied to Al Arabiya that the town had fallen into the hands of regime forces. The activist added that with support from Hezbollah militias, the Syrian regime is heavily shelling Qusayr, leveling civilian homes.
Syrian activists told Al Arabiya on Sunday that regime airstrikes and heavy shelling of the strategic town, near the Lebanese border killed at least 58 people and left hundreds wounded, including opposition fighters.
Qusayr is home to about 20,000 residents and has been besieged for weeks by government troops.
Earlier in May, spokesperson of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) Louay Almokdad told Al Arabiya that Hezbollah was using artillery shells containing fatal Mustard Gas in the area.
The town is strategically important because it links Damascus with the coast, where regime loyalists are concentrated.
The Syrian Revolution General Commission, a network of activists on the ground, also reported intense bombardment of Qusayr.
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