Damascus: Syrian elite forces and more fighters from the Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah have been sent to reinforce government troops battling rebels in the strategic border city of Qusayr, activists report.
Government fighter jets launched early on Wednesday six air raids on the rebel-held areas of the city, Hadi al-Abdallah, an activist in Qusayr, told Al Jazeera, as clashes raged between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and opposition fighters on several frontlines.
"Up to 40 tanks and 40 pick-up vehicles fitted with heavy machine guns were moving towards the city from Qalamoun [in Damascus province]. Rebels will try to foil their advance," Abdallah said.
Rami Abdul Rahman, of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights network, said the latest reinforcement “indicate that the regime is gearing for a major offensive" on neighbourhoods in the north and west of the town still under rebel control.
"Despite the intense bombardment, the rebels are resisting fiercely," Abdul Rahman said.
Control of Qusayr is essential for the rebels as it is their principal transit point for weapons and fighters from across the border in Lebanon.
It is also strategic for the regime because it is located on the road linking Damascus with the Mediterranean coast, its rear base.
"If Qusayr was not strategic, the rebels would not be fighting to the death and the regime and Hezbollah would not have brought in their heavyweights," Abdul Rahman said.