Syrian activists: Hezobollah fighters killed in siege | Middle East| News and analysis of events in the Arab world | DW | 20.05.2013
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Middle East

Syrian activists: Hezobollah fighters killed in siege

Over 20 soldiers from Shiite militia group, Hezbollah, have died fighting alongside Syria's military to recapture a strategic town. Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry is to return to the region for peace talks.

A military offensive on the town of Qusair in central Homs province claimed over 50 lives, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The activist group reported on Monday that at least 20 of those killed were Hezbollah members fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's troops as it encircled the strategic town. Qusair lies on key roads to the coast and northern Lebanon.

The Syrian military had "restored security and stability to most Qusair neighborhoods," by Monday morning local time, according to Syrian state television. An army spokesperson confirmed the report to news agency AFP.

Media reports indicated that fighting in the surrounding area continued after Syrian troops had re-established the regime's control over the downtown.

Overnight on Sunday, al-Assad's army and air force launched an attack on Qusair, causing widespread damage to the town with its artillery and forcing civilians to take shelter in their basements.

Fighting has escalated in the surrounding Homs province in recent weeks, as the Syrian military attempts to recapture towns from opposition fighters.

Diplomats plan week of Syria talks

Meanwhile international leaders readied themselves for a set of meetings this week aimed at brokering peace in the divided country where the civil war has recently entered its third year.

US Secretary of State John Kerry was due to meet with the sultan of Oman on Tuesday and then travel to Jordan to "meet with key international partners to further explore ways the international community can work towards bringing together both sides of the concerned," according to State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki.

In response to an urgent plea from the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) on Sunday, the Arab League scheduled a meeting in Cairo for later this week. The coalition itself also planned to meet later in the week in Istanbul.

"We say to the countries that are working for a political solution in Syria that allowing this invasion to go ahead in silence…will render any conference and any peace effort meaningless," the SNC said on Sunday.

The US, Russia, Israel and other international entities have been working together in recent weeks to establish a peace plan for Syria.

Evidence of the deployment of chemical weapons by both sides of the armed conflict sparked a peace conference proposal by the US and Russia earlier this month. Washington and Moscow have urged the opposition and President al-Assad's government to negotiate with the assistance of international negotiators.

kms/ccp (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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