Syrian forces capture final rebel stronghold in Qusair region

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Soldiers loyal to the Syrian regime gesture while on their military vehicle in the village of Debaa near Qusair, after the Syrian army took control of the village from rebel fighters June 7, 2013. Photo: Reuters

Syrian government forces backed by Hezbollah guerrillas captured on Saturday the village of Buwayda, the final rebel stronghold in the area surrounding the town of Qusair, which was seized earlier this week.

Security sources and activists said dozens of fighters who had escaped Qusair were captured in the assault, which secured government forces full control over land close to the Lebanese border that was used by rebels to bring in arms and supplies.

Syrian state television aired footage from the empty streets of Buwayda, 13-km (eight miles) northeast of Qusair, showing a destroyed building, which it said had been used by the rebels, with rubble and debris littering the roads.

Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad captured Qusair on Wednesday after more than two weeks of fierce fighting and heavy shelling that destroyed hundreds of buildings and sent civilians fleeing to outlying areas.

Rebel groups from across Syria sent in hundreds of men to try to stave off the assault by the Syrian army and well-trained Hezbollah guerrillas, but they were rapidly overwhelmed, with activists complaining of a lack of arms and poor coordination.

The fall of the town represented a major victory for the autocratic Assad, who is battling a two-year civil war that has left at least 80,000 dead. Having secured the area, his forces are expected to shift their attention to the northern city of Aleppo, where rebels have dug in over the past year.

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