DAMASCUS, (Xinhua): The Syrian army on Sunday launched a wide-scale operation to recapture the border city of al-Qussair near Lebanon, and has regained large swathes of the strategic city, local media reported.
The offensive aims to cut the rebels’ main supply line in the central region of the country, analysts said.
Earlier, the official Sham FM radio said the troops have reached the center of al-Qussair, which has largely been out of the government control since last year, and the Syrian flag was hoisted once again on the municipal building.
Tens of rebels were killed while others dropped their weapons and surrendered themselves to the army.
Last month, Syrian army waged a large scale operation and regained all of the towns surrounding al-Qussair to cut the supply lines of the rebels entrenching inside the city.
Last week, Syria’s air forces dropped leaflets urging people in al-Qussair to leave their homes in anticipation of furious battles in the city. Sources said that more than 400 families have fled the city since last week.
Elsewhere in Homs, twin blasts targeting checkpoints killed at least two people, which apparently came to ease pressure on the besieged rebels in al-Qussair.
Taleb Ibrahim, a political expert, told Xinhua that al-Qussair is about 35 km south of Homs province and located in a mountainous area overlooking Syria’s border with Lebanon.
The city’s proximity to the Lebanese town of Ersal has made it a main smuggling route of weapons and armed men into Homs, Ibrahim said, adding that regaining control over the strategic city would deprive the armed rebels’ main supply line and would deal a heavy blow to their very existence in Homs and central Syria as a whole.
He said that the weapons that are being funneled to the suburbs of the capital Damascus are coming from al-Qussair.
Aside from al-Qussair, the Syrian troops have also advanced in the Halfaya town in the central province of Hama, which is connected with al-Qussair.
In Damascus, the troops regained control over the northeastern district of Barzeh and killed tens of armed rebels, according to local media.
The advancement of the Syrian troops comes as the superpowers are expected to hold an international meeting in June with the participation of representatives from both the Syrian government and the opposition to hammer out an approach that could be a prelude for a political settlement to the 26-month-old crisis.