May 14 - Activists opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad say rebels killed 23 soldiers on Monday in fighting in the western town of Rastan on Monday. Travis Brecher reports.
Rebels killed 23 Syrian soldiers on Monday, according to a rights group opposed to President Bashar al-Assad, in battles around the town of Rastan. The fighting on the outskirts of Rastan followed heavy army shelling of the town, in which opposition sources said at least nine people were killed. This amateur video which was posted to a social media website purports to show Monday's fighting. Reuters is unable to independently verify it, due to the Syrian authorities' restrictions on the media. Rastan is 25 kilometres north of Homs, and has slipped in and out of government control several times since the uprising against Assad's rule began in March of last year. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said fighting began at dawn Monday, and that rebels had destroyed three armoured personnel carriers, seized two others, and captured around 15 soldiers. Rastan has in the past been a major source of Sunni Muslim conscripts who provide most of the manpower in Syria's military. But officers from Rastan began defecting after security forces shot dead dozens of demonstrators in the town, and arrested many notable citizens. The area was the scene of the first serious armed confrontation between army defectors and loyalist forces last year. Travis Brecher, Reuters