The town of Qusair has reportedly come back under the control of Syrian government forces. The troops battled Syrian opposition fighters for nearly three weeks to reclaim the strategic border town.
Syria's official state television reported on Wednesday that the Syrian army had won the battle for Qusair, which lies close to Lebanon's northeast border.
"[The army] totally controls the Qusair region in Homs province after killing a large number of terrorists and capturing others," state television reported, using the term "terrorists" to denote opposition forces trying to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"Our heroic armed forces have returned security and stability [to the area]," it added.
Lebanon's Al-Mayadeen television broadcaster also reported that Syrian troops controlled the area, according to the Associated Press news agency.
Both President al-Assad's military and opposition forces rely on its highways as a key supply route to and from Lebanon. Moreover, Qusair connects the Syrian capital, Damascus, to the Mediterranean Sea.
The victory came just days after the UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos and UN human rights commissioner Navi Pillay called for an evacuation of the estimated 1,500 civilians trapped in the besieged town.
The battle for Qusair has confirmed the international community's long-held fears that violence could quickly spill over into neighboring countries. Hezbollah's involvement sparked sectarian violence in Beirut and Tripoli between Shiite and Sunni groups, who support opposing sides in the war. The Shiite militant group Hezbollah also drew criticism from Western leaders and Israel for sending hundreds of fighters to help al-Assad's troops, thus raising its profile in the war at a time when US and Russia are trying to organize peace negotiations.
kms/mz (AP, AFP, Reuters)