Activists: Syrian Rebels Repel Attack on Town
Syrian rebels repelled a push Monday by government tanks into a key central town held by forces fighting President Bashar Assad’s regime as the country’s 11-month-old uprising looked increasingly like a nascent civil war.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attempt by regime forces to storm Rastan in the restive central province of Homs left at least three soldiers dead. Rastan has been held by the rebels since late January.
The town was taken by defectors twice in the past only to be retaken by Syrian troops. It is the hometown of former Defense Minister Mustapha Tlass, who held the post for more than three decades, mostly under Assad’s father and predecessor, the late Hafez Assad.
Calls to town’s residents could not get through on Monday and the telephone lines appeared to be cut, as they usually are during military operations.
“Troops maneuvered by moving on the northern edge of town then other forces attacked form the south,” said Rami Abdul-Rahman, who heads the Observatory. He added that hundreds of army defectors are in Rastan.
The Observatory also said that troops bombed the rebel-held Homs neighborhood of Baba Amr that has been under siege for more than a week. It reported clashes in the village of Busra al-Harir in the southern province of Daraa between troops and army defectors.
In the central city of Hama, a sniper shot dead a civilian, the group said.
The Syrian uprising began as mostly peaceful protests against Assad’s authoritarian regime, but it has turned increasingly militarized over the past few months in the face of a brutal military crackdown that has killed thousands of people.