NGO says Syrian troops pounding rebels


Mon, Nov 12, 2012 - Page 6

Syrian troops early yesterday pounded rebel lines near Damascus and in the northern city of Aleppo, while fighting raged around the northeast town of Ras al-Ain on the border with Turkey, a watchdog said.

The new surge of violence comes after a bloody day on Saturday which left 121 people dead across the country — 42 troops, 34 rebel fighters and 45 civilians — according to figures from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Clashes broke out around midnight between the army and rebels in the town of Harasta on the northeastern outskirts of Damascus, the Britain-based watchdog said.

Meanwhile, the Local Coordination Committees, a network of opposition activists on the ground, reported heavy shelling overnight by regime forces on rebel areas southwest of the capital and in the town of Yabrud to the north.

In the northern city of Aleppo, where fighting between rebels and government troops has raged since mid-July, mortar rounds rained on the rebel bastions of Shaar in the east, Sukari in the south and Halab al-Jadida in the west, according to the Observatory.

Residents said fierce clashes erupted in the northwest districts of Zahraa and Liramun, where tanks fired on rebel positions, and in the embattled Old City. According to Observatory, which relies on a network of activists, lawyers and medics in civilian and military hospitals, fighting also broke out overnight around Ras al-Ain, in Hasakeh Province.

“There are reports of fighting between rebels and regime troops around Ras al-Ain, but not inside the town,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.

The mainly Kurdish province of Hasakeh has seen heavy fighting in the past few days, with 46 combatants killed as the opposition seized Ras al-Ain on Friday.

The Observatory had on Saturday reported that Kurdish residents backed by militia from the Democratic Union Party (PYD) had taken control of three towns near the border with Turkey after convincing pro-government forces to leave.

The PYD has links with Turkey’s rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The Kurds took control of the towns of Derbassiye and Tall Tamr late on Friday after convincing pro-government forces to abandon their posts, the Observatory said.

On Saturday, regime forces also abandoned the town of Amuda, northeast of Derbassiye on the Turkish border, following demonstrations urging them to go, the Observatory said.

It said the residents had feared the same kind of violence that saw 9,000 Syrians flee to Turkey in 24 hours in the face of the fighting in Ras al-Ain.