Syrian rebels plead for help as army bombards strategic Qusair

BEIRUT Thu May 30, 2013 6:21am EDT

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian rebels pleaded for military and medical aid in the embattled border town of Qusair on Thursday, saying they were unable to evacuate hundreds of wounded under an onslaught from government forces backed by Lebanese Hezbollah fighters.

President Bashar al-Assad launched an offensive to capture Qusair two weeks ago in what many see as a bid to cement a hold on territory from the capital Damascus up to his Alawite community heartland on the Mediterranean coast.

"We have 700 people wounded in Qusair and 100 of them are being given oxygen. The town is surrounded and there's no way to bring in medical aid," said Malek Ammar, an opposition activist in the besieged town.

Rebels in Qusair sent out an appeal for support using social media outlets, saying the town near the Syrian-Lebanese border - straddling supply lines critical to both sides in Syria's civil war - could be devastated.

"If all rebel fronts do not move to stop this crime being led by Hezbollah and Assad's traitorous army of dogs..., we will soon be saying that there was once a city called Qusair," the statement said.

Syria's two-year old conflict began as a peaceful protest movement but evolved into an armed insurrection after a violent security crackdown on demonstrators. More than 80,000 people have been killed and the violence is now stoking political and sectarian tensions in neighboring countries.

Shi'ite Muslim Hezbollah is believed to have committed hundreds of guerrilla fighters, many of them with battle experience from a 2006 war with Israel, to help its ally Assad secure Qusair.

BOMBARDMENT

Fighters in Qusair said they were hearing at least 50 shells crashing every hour. Hezbollah and Syrian government forces appeared to be advancing more quickly after seizing the nearby Dabaa air base on Wednesday.

The Qusair fighting has intensified already simmering sectarian tensions. The rebels are mostly from Syria's Sunni Muslim majority while minorities have largely backed Assad, himself from the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

Rebel units from different parts of Syria have said for days that they have sent fighters to support the opposition in Qusair, but rebels inside say none have made it into the town.

You Tube videos published by several units suggest some brigades have arrived around the outskirts of Qusair, a town of 30,000, but not advanced further.

Ahmad Bakar, a doctor in a hospital near Qusair, posted on appeal on Facebook for rebels to rush to help.

"We need immediate intervention from outside battalions. I swear to God no supplies have gotten through to us and we need a route to be opened to evacuate the wounded an civilians."

Thousands of civilians are believed to have fled Qusair before the offensive began - Assad's forces distributed leaflets by plane saying they would be attacking the town.

Some activists estimate Qusair's civilian population was at about 20,000 when the offensive began.

"What we need them to do is come to the outskirts of the city and attack the checkpoints so we can get routes in and out of the city. Most of Qusair is surrounded," said the activist Ammar, speaking by Skype from the town.

Among those who have come to try to help Qusair are fighters from radical Sunni Islamist groups such as Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra, which is linked to al Qaeda.

Sunni rebel groups have threatened to commit sectarian revenge massacres in Shi'ite and Alawite towns both in Lebanon and Syria in retaliation for Hezbollah's participation in the Qusair attack. They see the battle-hardened Hezbollah's role as critical to Assad's battlefield strength.

(Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Comments (4)
ALALAYIIIAAAA wrote:
hahahaha why do they plea for? they will go to paradise anyway (that’s what they say, breaking our b@#lls with allhu this allahu that allahu is great allahu scored a goal against barcelona ) why bothering their minds asking for foreighn help?

May 30, 2013 6:52am EDT  --  Report as abuse
westernshame wrote:
lets do a quick morality check….

on one hand we have

“Thousands of civilians are believed to have fled Qusair before the offensive began – Assad’s forces distributed leaflets by plane saying they would be attacking the town.”

and on the other hand we have

“Among those who have come to try to help Qusair are fighters from radical Sunni Islamist groups such as Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra, which is linked to al Qaeda.

Sunni rebel groups have threatened to commit sectarian revenge massacres in Shi’ite and Alawite towns both in Lebanon and Syria in retaliation for Hezbollah’s participation in the Qusair attack.”

so we have Assad’s forces showing concern for the civilian population, even to the point of telling the terrorist rebels when and where their next offensive will be. and then we have the terrorist rebels showing no concern for the civilian population, using the civilians as human shields and threatening to slaughter even more innocent civilians.

it’s not to hard for me to see which is the lesser of the two evils, how about you??

May 30, 2013 8:08am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Inspired43 wrote:
Reuters you shameless dog….You just report propaganda and lies….Assad is not backed by minority Alawite sect. He is backed by majority or the people of Syria that is why he is still in power after more than 2 years and he will be in power and then yours and your western masters’ shameless head will be down. I have friend from Syria who are Sunnis and who want Assad to stay in power. Rebels are not Sunnis they are cannibals because no Sunni Muslim will become a cannibal in the name of God. If they are Muslims then they should know that this is not how you fight a war as per quran.

May 30, 2013 9:58am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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A tourist takes a plunge as she swims at Ngapali Beach, a popular tourist site, in the Thandwe township of the Rakhine state, October 6, 2013. Picture taken October 6, 2013. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun (MYANMAR - Tags: SOCIETY) - RTR3FOI0

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