Syrian Army Takes Village Near Qusair as Assad Extends Gains

The Syrian Army today retook the village of al-Buweida al-Sharqiya, north of al-Qusair, as forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad extended their military gains and Russia pushed its effort to send a contingent of peacekeeping troops to the Golan Heights.

The army “restored security and stability” in the village after “eliminating the last gatherings of terrorists,” the Syrian Arab News Agency said, citing an unidentified government official. The Coventry, U.K.-based opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported intense fighting on the outskirts of al-Buweida today.

The latest reverse for rebels fighting a two-year war to oust Assad comes after they lost the strategic city of al-Qusair this past week. Government control of al-Qusair, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) southwest of Homs, secures the road from Damascus to Lebanon, cuts cross-border weapons supplies for the rebels and provides a staging ground for further offensives.

Russian President Vladimir Putin offered yesterday to provide troops for the UN peacekeeping force in the Golan Heights after Austria decided to withdraw its soldiers, citing escalating risks from Syria’s civil war. Austrian Defense Minister Gerald Klug said June 6 the risks to his country’s soldiers had become “unacceptable” after clashes in the area between Syrian government forces and opposition fighters.

Russian Golan Proposal

While the UN was “grateful” for Putin’s proposal, countries that are permanent members of the Security Council aren’t allowed to participate in the force under the agreement between Syria and Israel that created the peacekeeping mission, Martin Nesirky, a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said yesterday.

“Maintaining peace and stability require different political thinking,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said on his Twitter account today. “If the UNSC is really concerned about the tension in Golan Heights sending a Russian military contingent there seems to be a solution.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross has evacuated 47 Syrians injured during the fighting in al-Qusair to hospitals in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, state-run National News Agency reported. The International Committee of the Red Cross reached an agreement to evacuate victims from the fighting in al-Qusair, Al Jazeera satellite television reported. Thousands of civilians, some of them wounded, remain trapped in the city, according to the Syrian National Council, part of the National Coalition, which is the main political opposition.

Otaibah, to the east of Damascus, fell after a 37-day battle, and the rebels have also lost the southern town of Sanamein, Aziza in the north and ground near the city of Aleppo.

Seven people were killed by a suicide car bomber attack in the al-Adawiya neighborhood in Homs, SANA reported, citing an unidentified official. At least 80,000 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising began in 2011, millions of others have been displaced and reports of human rights abuses on both sides are increasing, the United Nations said this past week.

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