Syrian forces sweep into ‘last rebel stronghold’ in Qusayr district

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The village of Buwayda, the final opposition stronghold in the area surrounding Syria’s central town of Qusayr, has been reportedly captured by Syrian government forces backed by Hezbollah.

“Our heroic troops have restored safety and security in Eastern Buwayda,” AFP news agency reported Syrian state television as saying on Saturday.

Hundreds of people who fled Qusayr during battles between opposition and regime fighters had taken refuge in Buwayda when the town was captured by Syrian forces earlier this week, according to AFP.

Syrian state television broadcast footage of a barren village devoid of signs of life.

Hezbollah also announced the news of Eastern Bweida's fall on its own television channel, Al-Manar.

As the regime consolidated its grip on Qusayr, amateur video distributed by pro-Hezbollah activists showed unidentified men raising a black flag with the Shiite cry "Ya Hussein" inscribed on it, in a new sign of escalating sectarianism.

While most rebels in Syria are Sunnis, Hezbollah is Shiite and backs the Assad clan, who belong to the minority Alawite sect.

Syrian opposition fighters withdrew overnight Wednesday from Qusayr near the border with Lebanon after an onslaught by the Syrian army and Hezbollah fighters killed hundreds of people, a rebel statement said.

“In face of this huge arsenal and lack supplies and the blatant intervention of Hezbollah... tens of fighters stayed behind and ensured the withdrawal of their comrades along with the civilians,” said the statement, which was sent to Reuters.

Hezbollah’s deputy leader, Naim Qassem, said the fall of Qusayr was a blow to American-Israel interests and proved that efforts to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime were “delusional,” Reuters reported him as saying.

“The battle today [Wednesday] has only one significance, and that is the fight against Israel and those who support its plans,” Qassem said in a statement.

“Today we proved without any doubt that the gamble to topple Syria is a delusional plan.”

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