** Syrian Conflict Draws in Assad Ally Hezbollah, Widens His Rift with Hamas**
Syria's civil war appears to be drawing in Lebanese Hezbollah militants allied to President Bashar al-Assad while at the same time widening a rift between the Syrian leader and his former Palestinian militant allies Hamas.
In reports published Tuesday, Western news agencies quote Lebanese sources and Syrian activists as saying that a senior Hezbollah commander and two other Hezbollah fighters have been killed near the Syrian town of Qusair, bordering northern Lebanon. The reports say the three Hezbollah men were killed in a Syrian rebel ambush on Saturday or Sunday.
Syrian rebels have accused Hezbollah of helping President Assad to fight an 18-month uprising against his autocratic rule. The Lebanese militant group has maintained strong political support for the Syrian president during the conflict but has not admitted to any military activity inside Syria.
Hezbollah identified the slain Hezbollah commander as Ali Hussein Nassif. It said he and the other militants were killed while engaging in jihad duties but did not disclose the location. Hezbollah's al-Manar television network broadcast the funerals of the fighters in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley on Tuesday.
In another development, Syrian state television has made a scathing verbal attack on Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, a former ally of Mr. Assad. In an editorial broadcast late Monday, the network accused Mashaal of turning his back on the Syrian government and betraying the Palestinian cause.
The commentary appeared to be a reaction to Mashaal's appearance at an Ankara conference organized by Turkey's ruling party on Sunday. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been one of President Assad's strongest critics in the region.
** Report: White House Mulling Possible Drone Strikes in North Africa **
The White House has declined to confirm or deny a report that says it is considering whether to carry out drone strikes against al-Qaida's branch in North Africa.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday the White House has held secret meetings to consider unilateral action against al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM.
The group has become increasingly entrenched in North Africa, especially in northern Mali, which fell earlier this year to Islamist militants allied with al-Qaida.
National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor did not comment on specifics in the article.
In a statement, he said "the president has been clear about his goal to destroy al-Qaida's network and we work toward that goal every day," Vietor said. He added, "We aren't going to get into the specifics of any of these discussions or policy prescriptions."
The Post quotes a top U.S. counterterrorism official as saying the talks are focused on helping regional militaries battle al-Qaida. But the official, who is reportedly involved in the talks, added they are also looking at possible direct U.S. intervention if the terror group goes unchecked.
Pentagon spokesman George Little says the situation is being monitored and the United States is ready to help states in the region.