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Syria's opposition said Saturday that roughly 45 Lebanese-based Hezbollah militants, who were supporting Syrian government forces in an attack on the western border town of Qusayr, were killed in combat with the rebels.
Activist Emar al-Qusayr, who is based in that region, told Efe via Internet that the Free Syria Army rebels killed the Hezbollah combatants and repelled their attempt to push into the town.
Two opposition bodies, the Local Coordinating Committees of Syria and the Syria Revolution General Commission, also reported the same information and said dozens of Hezbollah fighters were wounded.
Meanwhile, a total of 30 people, including 27 rebels, died in shelling by the Syrian military on Saturday, according to the pro-opposition, London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Both the activist and the Observatory described Saturday's combat and bombardment as the most violent and intense since government forces launched their offensive against the rebel-held town last Sunday.
The fighting also affected other rebel-held areas: the nearby town of Al Dabaa, where a strategic military airbase is located; the villages of Al Hamidiya and Aryun; and even the city of Homs.
The airbase, which is still under rebel control, was being subjected to heavy bombardment and the surrounding area was the scene of intense combat, the Observatory said.
On Saturday, the leader of Hezbollah, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, publicly acknowledged for the first time that the militant group was fighting in Syria, saying in a televised address it could not abandon President Bashar al-Assad's government in its battle against Sunni extremists because that war is also crucial to Lebanon.
Qusayr, a town of 25,000 inhabitants, is a strategic enclave for the mostly Sunni Muslim rebels because of its location along a crucial weapons supply route that links northern Lebanon - which is majority Sunni - and the rebel-held Syrian city of Homs.
It is also crucial to the Syrian government because it lies on a road between Damascus and the Mediterranean coast, a bastion of the country's Alawite minority, the Shiite offshoot to which Assad also belongs. EFE