AMMAN (Reuters) – About 30 Lebanese Hezbollah fighters and 20 Syrian soldiers and militiamen loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have been killed in the fiercest fighting this year in the rebel stronghold of Qusair, Syrian activists said on Monday.
If confirmed, the Hezbollah toll from Sunday’s battles in Qusair near the Lebanese border would highlight a deepening intervention in Syria by the guerrilla group set up by Iran in the 1980s to fight Israeli occupation troops in south Lebanon.
AMMAN/LONDON (Reuters) – The world’s diplomats will make a major new push in the coming days for negotiations to end Syria’s civil war, but their chances of achieving a peace deal look as remote as ever.
President Bashar al-Assad poured scorn on new plans for peace talks announced unexpectedly by the United States and Russia two weeks ago and planned for Geneva in early June.
AMMAN (Reuters) – Lebanese Hezbollah militants attacked a Syrian rebel-held town alongside Syrian troops on Sunday and Israel threatened more attacks on Syria to rein the militia in, highlighting the risks of a wider regional conflict if planned peace talks fail.
Activists said it was the fiercest fighting in Syria’s two year-old civil war involving Hezbollah, a Shi’ite group backed by Iran which they said appeared to be helping President Bashar al-Assad secure a vital corridor in case Syria fragments.
AMMAN (Reuters) – Syrian troops supported by Hezbollah militants launched an offensive to retake a major town near Lebanon from rebels on Sunday, the heaviest fighting yet involving Lebanese armed group, opposition activists said.
At least 32 people were killed when rebel fighters clashed with mechanized Syrian army units and Hezbollah guerillas in nine points in and around the town of Qusair, 10 km (six miles) from the border with Lebanon’s Bekaa valley, they said.
AMMAN (Reuters) – Syria’s opposition coalition will meet in Istanbul on May 23 to decide whether to participate in a U.S. and Russian-sponsored conference to try to end the Syrian civil war, coalition officials said on Sunday.
A session of the 60-member general assembly of the Islamist-dominated coalition will also elect a new head and discuss the fate of provisional prime minister Ghassan Hitto, who has come under heavy criticism for being too influenced by opposition figures with close links to Qatar, coalition insiders said.
AMMAN (Reuters) – It was too late when air raid sirens wailed at one of Syria’s most fortified military compounds. Israeli jets were already attacking the Hameh complex and civilian employees in nearby housing were scrambling for cover with their families.
Around Damascus the warplanes staged a series of raids in the early hours of Sunday including on President Bashar al-Assad’s air defenses, opposition and rebel sources said. But none had more devastating results than at Hameh, a high-walled site linked to his chemical and biological weapons program.
JERUSALEM/AMMAN (Reuters) – Israel played down weekend air strikes close to Damascus reported to have killed dozens of Syrian soldiers, saying they were not aimed at influencing its neighbour’s civil war but only at stopping Iranian missiles reaching Lebanese Hezbollah militants.
Oil prices spiked above $105 (67.5 pounds) a barrel, their highest in nearly a month, on Monday as the air strikes on Friday and Sunday prompted fears of a wider spill over of the two-year-old conflict in Syria that could affect Middle East oil exports.
JERUSALEM/AMMAN (Reuters) – Russia and China expressed alarm on Monday over the regional repercussions of two Israeli air raids on Syria, while Israel played down strikes which its officials said targeted Iranian missiles bound for Lebanese Hezbollah militants.
Oil prices spiked above $105 a barrel, their highest in nearly a month, on Monday morning as the air strikes on Friday and Sunday prompted fears of a wider spillover of Syria’s two-year-old civil war that could affect Middle East oil exports.
AMMAN (Reuters) – The growing power of Islamist fighters in southern Syria is causing alarm in neighboring Jordan, which backs rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad but fears those linked to al Qaeda.
Similar concerns among Syria’s other neighbors, including Turkey and Israel, are complicating an already disjointed world response to the bloody turmoil at the heart of the Middle East.
AMMAN (Reuters) – A Syrian air strike on a headquarters of a rebel brigade along the Turkish border killed at least five people, including children, and wounded dozens more on Tuesday, opposition activists said.
The attack targeted buildings belonging to the Ahrar al-Sham, a Salafist Islamist rebel unit fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the activists said. A Turkish aid worker said the strike also hit a warehouse on the Syrian side of the border used by aid groups.