The Syrian army seized control on Wednesday (June 5) of the strategic border town of Qusair, Syrian and Lebanese television stations showed, in a major advance for President Bashar al-Assad's forces in the country's two-year civil war.

Hezbollah television station Al-Manar showed a deserted looking Qusair as soldiers stuck Syrian flags on piles of rubble spilling from shelled buildings across the torn up streets.

Rebels said they had pulled out of Qusair, which lies on a cross-border supply route with neighbouring Lebanon and where they had fought fierce battles with government forces and Hezbollah guerrillas for more than two weeks.

Assad's forces fought hard to seize Qusair, which had been in rebel hands for over a year, to reassert control of a corridor through the central province of Homs which links Damascus to the coastal heartland of Assad's minority Alawites, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

It marked the latest military gain for Assad, who has launched a series of counter-offensives against mainly Sunni Muslim rebels battling to overthrow him and end his minority Alawite family's four decade grip on power.

More than 80,000 people have been killed in the fighting and another 1.6 million Syrians refugees have fled a conflict which has fueled sectarian tensions across the Middle East, spilled over into neighbouring Lebanon and divided world power.