The battle for a key town in Syria has reached a new intensity and has an alarming new dimension.
President Assad has stepped up his attacks on Qusair - with, it is claimed, support from Hezbollah fighters, from Lebanon.
Taking control of Qusair could give the Assad regime a vital corridor of control. From Damascus through Homs and onto Latakia. It would link the capital Damascus with the city of Homs and Latakia.
The coastal region has a large population of Alawites - the same sect as Assad. And it could be a key base for the regime if the country splits along ethnic and sectarian lines.
Middle East correspondent John Ray reports: