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Tags: syria | civil war | assad | beirut | red cross | hezbollah

Syrian Forces Ready New Offensive After Qusair Victory

Syrian Forces Ready New Offensive After Qusair Victory
Syrian Army troops drive through the streets of Qusair on June 5.

Sunday, 09 June 2013 09:38 AM EDT

DAMASCUS, Syria — Regime forces buoyed by a key victory against rebels were preparing Sunday to launch an offensive aimed at expelling rebels from Aleppo in northern Syria, a security source said.

With the conflict spilling over Syria's borders, one man was killed at a demonstration outside the Iranian embassy in Beirut against the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah.

"It is likely the battle for Aleppo will start in the coming hours or days, and its aim is to reclaim the towns and villages in the province," the Syrian security source told AFP.

"The Syrian Arab army is ready to carry out its mission in this province," the source added, on condition of anonymity.

On the international front, Britain said that Syrian government gains on the ground had made organizing peace talks harder, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed Syria's conflict by telephone.

The announcement of a potential new offensive comes five days after the army bolstered by the Iran-backed Hezbollah seized Qusair in central-west Syria, a year after the strategic region fell into rebel hands.

Analysts say its success in Qusair just six miles from Syria's border with Lebanon has given the army the confidence to try to suppress the insurgency elsewhere in the strife-torn country.

Pro-regime daily Al-Watan said the army has "started to deploy at a large scale in Aleppo province, in preparation for a battle that will be fought in the city and its outskirts."

Rebels last July launched a massive assault on Aleppo, once Syria's commercial hub. The city has since suffered daily regime bombardment and clashes.

Al-Watan also said "the Syrian army will take advantage of its experience in Qusair and Eastern Ghouta (near Damascus) to advance in the (central) province of Hama and Homs" nearby.

An army siege of rebel-held areas of Homs entered its second year on Sunday.

"The consequences of the battle for Qusair will . . . map out the contours of Syria's political future," Al-Watan added.

In Beirut, a young man injured in a clash outside the Iranian embassy between supporters and opponents of Hezbollah died of his wounds, a Lebanese army spokesman told AFP.

"A civilian was critically injured and has since died."

Around 100 people also staged an anti-Hezbollah protest in central Beirut amid a heavy security presence, an AFP journalist said.

Also in Lebanon, the Red Cross said dozens of people wounded in Qusair have been brought across the border for treatment.

Security sources in Lebanon said dozens of wounded, both rebels and civilians, have made their way independently across the frontier to seek medical treatment.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague, meanwhile, said that Syrian regime gains made it harder to organize a U.S.-Russian proposed peace conference and to make it a success.

"The regime has gained ground on the ground, again at the cost of huge loss of life and the indiscriminate use of violence against the civilian population," he told BBC television.

"That makes the Geneva conference harder to bring about and to make a success. It makes it less likely that the regime will make enough concessions in such negotiations, and it makes it harder to get the opposition to come to the negotiations."

Syria's main opposition coalition on Saturday said it refused to join in the peace talks dubbed Geneva 2.

"What is happening in Syria today completely closes the doors on any discussions about international conferences and political initiatives," George Sabra, interim head of the National Coalition, told a press conference in Istanbul.

On Sunday, the Syria conflict also spilled over into Iraq, where a guard was killed and two were wounded in clashes with Syrian rebels near a border crossing.

More than 94,000 people have been killed and some 1.6 million Syrians have fled the country since March 2011 after Assad cracked down on pro-democracy protests, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates.

© AFP 2022

Regime forces buoyed by a key victory against rebels were preparing Sunday to launch an offensive aimed at expelling rebels from Aleppo in northern Syria, a security source said.
syria,civil war,assad,beirut,red cross,hezbollah
Sunday, 09 June 2013 09:38 AM
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