Hezbollah ‘escalates Qusayr battle’ ahead of Nasrallah speech

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Fighters from Lebanon’s Hezbollah intensified their fight alongside Syrian regime forces in the central Syrian town of Qusayr on Saturday, in what activists described as an attempt by the Lebanese Shiite group to “score points.”

Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog, told AFP news agency “the intensification of the fighting can be explained by Hezbollah’s desire to score points before the speech their leader Hassan Nasrallah is due to deliver this evening,” marking the 13th anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon.

On Saturday, Hezbollah fighters joined forces with Syrian regime forces, rocking the central town with shelling on “the main roads inside and outside of Qusayr, are the most intense since the beginning of the offensive,” Abdul Rahman said.

“The town of Qusayr, and the rebel areas north of the town like Hamdiyeh, the former military airport at Dabaa and Arjuneh have been subjected to heavy bombardment by regime forces who are using surface-to-surface missiles,” he added.

The forces clashed with Syrian opposition fighters in these areas also.

Qusayr is a key prize for the rebels, a conduit through which weapons and fighters can be channeled from Lebanon.

It is also important for Bashar al-Assad’s forces because of its strategic location between Damascus and the Mediterranean coast, the Alawite heartland of the embattled president’s regime.

The Syrian army, backed by fighters from the Shiite Hezbollah, began their assault on Qusayr last Sunday.

Last week, the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) held Nasrallah personally responsible for the situation in the Syrian border town of Qusayr, as sectarian tension was on the rise in neighboring Lebanon.

“We announced that Hassan Nasrallah will be held personally responsible for the current situation because he in person is meeting with all of [his fighters] before they head to Qusayr,” FSA spokesperson Louay Almokdad told Al Arabiya English. “We are today calling Nasrallah a killer of the Syrian people.”

“It has reached the audacity and extent of criminal behavior that Nasrallah met with 1,200 of his fighters in the southern suburbs [of Beirut] before they headed to [Syria],” the FSA spokesperson said, adding the Hezbollah chief has distributed “tokens of motivation on which Shiite slogans – Yatharat al-Hussein – were written to each of his fighters.”

“We are certain these are fighters of Hassan Nasrallah. They are no longer Hezbollah, they are fighters of Hassan Nasrallah and [Iran’s supreme leader] Ali Khamanei.”

However, the FSA spokesperson also said that, along with Hezbollah, were fighters from other Lebanese groups, including the Syrian Social Nationalist Party and the Baath Party.

The Syrian rebels have repeatedly warned that they will hit Hezbollah targets on Lebanese territory if the latter does not withdraw from Syria and have called on the Lebanese government to put a stop to Hezbollah intervention.

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