Some wounded evacuated from fallen Syrian city

June 8, 2013 at 10:42 AM
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ARSAL, Lebanon, June 8 (UPI) -- The Red Cross evacuated wounded from the Syrian city of Qusair, which was overrun by the army this week, Lebanese sources told The Lebanon Star.

A dozen vehicles transported about 30 casualties out of Qusair Saturday in what was described as the first of several evacuation convoys.

"This is the first batch of wounded people and the Red Cross is expected to bring in several other groups in the coming days," said a security source whose name was not reported.

Saturday's convoy departed Qusair days after Syrian troops, reinforced by fighters from Hezbollah, overran anti-government rebels. The Red Cross was unable to bring help to civilians in Quasair during the weeks-long battle for the city.

Hezbollah's active role in the battle was a worrisome spill-over of the Syrian rebellion into neighboring Lebanon, officials said. Two unidentified helicopters fired six rockets over the border from Syria but no casualties were reported, officials in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley told The Daily Star.

A planned peace conference in Switzerland aimed at ending the conflict hit a potential snag Saturday when the opposition declared it would not attend the session unless it received additional arms and other supplies.

"The "Geneva conference is a Western idea, but we have to be powerful on the ground," rebel commander Gen. Salim Idris told The New York Times.

The Times said momentum on the battlefield shifted recently as allies of President Bashar Assad's regime stepped up their assistance, resulting in a significant loss of leverage for the rebels.

"There is agreement on one point within opposition circles: the regime, Iran and Hezbollah, supported by Russia, aim to win; the U.S. aims for talks," said Frederic Hof, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and former senior State Department official. "This helps to explain the opposition's reluctance to attend a Geneva conference and the difficulties it's having organizing itself around a coherent goal."

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