Qusayr, a strategically important town on the border between Syria and Lebanon, is back under the control of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after a two-week siege by Assad's troops and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah.
Syrian government flags were hoisted above the town on Wednesday after most of the rebels beat a retreat to a nearby village. Rebels had controlled the town since early 2012, and managed to hold on for longer than expected during the siege. But despite inflicting—in the words of the Times—"unaccustomed casualties on Hezbollah’s seasoned fighters," they couldn't overcome dwindling ammunition or medical supplies, or the absence of reinforcements, who were blocked by the much larger force surrounding the town. Worse, Red Crescent workers were prevented from entering Qusayr:
The retreat apparently followed an intervention by the United Nations, which had expressed concern about a humanitarian crisis in the city, especially after the government and Hezbollah refused to allow Red Crescent humanitarian workers into the city before the end of military operations.
A member of the Syrian National Coalition, the main exile opposition group, said on condition of anonymity that after mediation by the Lebanese politician Walid Jumblatt, United Nations officials relayed a message that Mr. Assad had agreed to allow the wounded to leave on condition that “armed gangs” leave Qusayr and hand over the city.
The city, a crucial point on the supply route between Lebanon and Syria, was taken in an apparent early-morning surprise attack. Its seizure marks the largest and most successful operation by Hezbollah inside Syria, and the battle between the Shi'ite forces of Assad's army and the Sunni rebels—including some non-Syrian jihadists—was rife with sectarian tension.