Battle rages in Syria as rebels struggle for unity
Syria's opposition resumed talks aimed at closing their fractious ranks, as government forces launched a fierce onslaught on a rebel-held border town. A medieval market in Old Aleppo -- seen here on May 23 -- has been destroyed by fighting between regime forces and rebels seeking to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad. A failure of the opposition to unite could weaken the hand of Russia and the United States, co-sponsors of a proposed peace conference on the war, which has killed 80 000 and threatens to spill over borders and whip up wider sectarian violence.
Syria is becoming a proxy conflict between Shi'ite Iran which backs Assad, whose Alawite faith is an offshoot of Shi'ism, and Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar which support Assad's mostly Sunni enemies. George Sabra, the acting head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, said thousands of fighters from Iran and Hezbollah were involved in the attack on Qusair, close to the Lebanese border, and in battles in the capital Damascus.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said his group would stay in the Syrian conflict "to the end of the road" and would win the war for Assad's government. Assad's forces are believed to have seized about two-thirds of Qusair and largely surrounded the rebels.
But the price was high and rebels insisted they were preventing further advances. The insurgents see Qusair as a critical battle to preserve cross-border supply lines and deny Assad a victory they fear may give him the edge in the prospective peace talks next month.
More than 22 people in opposition-held areas were killed by Saturday afternoon, most of them rebels, and dozens wounded, according to pro-opposition monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The pro-opposition Syrian Network for Human Rights said 73 people were killed by Assad's forces, and opposition campaigner Adib Shishakly said Nasrallah lost 75 fighters in the battle for Qusair and that rebel defenders were doing "an excellent job".
The United States, concerned by the rising influence of hardline Islamists, has pressed the Syrian National Coalition to resolve its divisions and bring more liberals into the fold. Sources at the coalition, which began its third day of meetings, said major players would focus on such international demands for a broadening of the Islamist-dominated group, leaving leadership issues for later.... Read the full, comprehensive news article and discuss at The Teacher/Daily Mail & Guardian