Besieged Syria rebels seek help, Assad eyes missiles


Syrian rebels under siege near the Lebanese border pleaded for help on Thursday against government troops and their Hezbollah allies as a confident President Bashar al-Assad spoke of having new Russian missiles.
Though Moscow contradicted suggestions he had taken delivery of an entire, long-range S-300 anti-aircraft system which alarms Israel, Russia’s plan to send them highlighted the international confrontation brewing over Syria, even as Moscow and Washington work together for a peace conference between the warring sides.
With Iran and its Lebanese partner Hezbollah also rallying to Assad’s defense and his Western-backed Syrian opponents mired in squabbles, the president was quoted sounding confident of his position at home and abroad. He would attend talks in Geneva, he said, but he expected to keep fighting the revolt. Among his enemies on the battlefield, rebels in the besieged border town of Qusair warned that it could be wiped off the map and hundreds of their wounded might die if no help came soon.
“The town is surrounded and there’s no way to bring in medical aid,” Malek Ammar, an opposition activist in the town, told Reuters over an Internet link, adding that about 100 of the 700 wounded needed bottled oxygen to keep breathing.
“What we need them to do,” he said of other rebel units, “is come to the outskirts of the city and attack the checkpoints so we can get routes in and out of the city.
There was little immediate sign, however, of military relief or of a negotiated settlement that might end the fighting. Harsh words from Moscow against the Syrian opposition’s insistence on Assad’s removal as a precondition for talks, and Russian criticism of Washington for considering a no-fly zone to help the rebels, underlined the geopolitical stakes in the war. An exchange of fire across the Turkish border on Thursday was a reminder that all Syria’s neighbors risk being sucked in to a regional conflict.
DIRE WARNING: In a statement, the rebel commanders at Qusair warned of dire consequences if help fails to arrive for men who have been fighting house to house for over a week against a force armed with tanks and rocket-launchers and spearheaded by Lebanese fighters from Hezbollah, seasoned in a 2006 war against Israel:
“If all rebel fronts do not move to stop this crime being led by Hezbollah and Assad’s traitorous army of dogs … we will soon be saying that there was once a city called Qusair.”
Shells were landing by the minute and the attackers seemed to be advancing more quickly after seizing a nearby air base.
Elsewhere, rebels blockaded in eastern suburbs of Damascus known as eastern Ghouta appealed for help on Facebook, saying Assad’s forces were “preparing to commit more massacres”.