Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Syrian forces take eastern city from rebels

BEIRUT (AP) -- Syrian soldiers backed by tanks seized the eastern city of Deir el-Zour from rebels on Tuesday, the latest opposition stronghold to fall to an offensive by the better equipped Syrian military.

Activist Osama Mansour said government troops and armored cars entered the city about 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the Iraqi border from four sides, sparking short gunbattles with fighters from the Free Syrian Army.

Mansour, reached by telephone in Deir el-Zour, said the rebels quit fighting and took shelter in homes and apartments, fearing that protracted clashes would destroy the city.

Taking back rebel-held cities in the past weeks, government troops have often heavily shelled neighborhoods before sending in troops, killing civilians and damaging buildings.

"They knew they could not hold control of the neighborhoods, so they decided to stop fighting, knowing that the regime would bring in heavy weapons and kill many civilians," Mansour said.

The rebels also lacked guns and ammunition, he said. Read More