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Syrian rebels fight to keep route to safe havens in Lebanon

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Without the Jusiyah route, the militants and refugees are forced to endure a lengthy march through the rugged, treeless mountains to the east of Masharih al-Qaa to reach the relative safety of Lebanon. 

“It will be a setback if we lose Jusiyah to the regime. If we control Jusiyah, we can reach Qusayr and if we can reach Qusayr, we can reach Homs,” said Hussein. “We are willing to sacrifice 40 men a day to hold Jusiyah.”

Two days ago, the FSA appeared to have lost control of Jusiyah. But fighting escalated again today, with shells falling on Masharih al-Qaaa, suggesting that the Jusiyah Martyrs' Brigade is determined to cling on to the village. 

Safe haven

The northern Lebanese town of Masharih al-Qaa has become a de facto safe haven for the FSA engaged in daily battles against the Syrian regime across the border. Hussein, Ismael and their colleagues in the Jusiyah Martyrs’ Brigade were resting from the fighting in a large tent erected beside a small farmhouse a mile from the border and surrounded by fields of cabbage, lentils, and potatoes. 

The Lebanese authorities generally have turned a blind eye to the FSA activities here. In return, the FSA militants say that they leave their weapons behind before crossing the border and do not launch attacks from here against Syrian troops.

As the sun sank behind the towering mountains to the west, a generator clattered into action, providing some light inside the tent and power for a small television that flickered images of news updates on the war in Syria. The generator was not so loud, however, that it drowned out the crump of artillery shelling just across the border.

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