32 Dead as Rebel Army Says Regime No Longer Controls Half of Syriaإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Syrian security forces on Tuesday killed at least 27 civilians, including two children, and five army deserters across the country, according to activists, as the rebel army said the embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad no longer controls half of the country's territory.
Fourteen people were killed in the flashpoint northwestern province of Idlib, eleven in the central protest hub of Homs, four in the capital Damascus and its suburbs, and three in the southern province of Daraa, the Local Coordination Committees, the main activist group spurring protests on the ground, said.
For its part, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least eight people were killed, three at the hands of regime forces in the central town of Rastan, in Homs, and five others across Idlib in the northwest.
"Three people were killed when the Syrian army unleashed mortar rounds on the city of Rastan, where the regular armed forces incurred heavy losses in terms of lives and equipment in the past two days," the Observatory said.
In Idlib, three young men were reportedly killed in an ambush by a militia loyal to Assad's regime, a citizen was shot dead in the crossfire between soldiers and deserters, and a fifth was killed after passing a checkpoint.
The Observatory also reported an unconfirmed number of casualties in the outskirts of Damascus, where "corpses" could be seen on the streets of Irbin, which was rocked by "heavy machine gunfire."
"The regime is using disproportionate force in several regions of Syria and the firepower being deployed is the most intense since the start of the Syrian revolution," said the Observatory's chairman Rami Abdul Rahman.
Demonstrations were also held on Tuesday in southern Daraa province as thousands attended the funeral of a slain protester, activists said.
And regime forces began blowing up houses in the protest hub of Rankous, north of Damascus, said an activist, who urged the world to help civilians besieged in the town for a week.
"This morning they started to blow up houses in Rankous. They are using diesel to set fire to buildings," said Abu Omar, an activist spokesman for the town of 25,000 people.
"The main road to Rankous is completely cut off, as well as communications, water and electricity, and there is no milk for babies. Help them. Send them food. They are dying."
Rights groups said troops penetrated Rankous after having shelled the town.
The opposition Syrian National Council has warned of a possible massacre in Rankous after hundreds of young men were rounded up by security forces.
"They have imposed a siege on Rankous, preventing food and medical aid from entering" the town, it said in a statement.
On Monday violence claimed some 103 lives according to the LCC and the Observatory, marking one of the bloodiest days of the revolt against Assad's regime since it erupted in March.
Meanwhile, Colonel Riad al-Asaad, head of the rebel Free Syrian Army, said "fifty percent of Syrian territory is no longer under the control of the regime."
He added, however, that this did not mean rebel troops were in control of this territory.
In an interview with AFP, Asaad, who is based in Turkey, said the FSA, emboldened by its growing ranks, was increasingly conducting guerrilla operations against regular army positions before withdrawing to safe positions.
"The operations carried out by the FSA amount to guerrilla operations that consist of carrying out quick attacks against regime forces and then making a tactical withdrawal to safe areas," Asaad said.
He said the FSA, made up of army defectors and sympathizers, was now launching daily strikes against regime checkpoints and was managing to destroy military vehicles before retreating.
Asaad said the army for its part had launched a fierce assault in the last week in a bid to reclaim control of suburbs near the capital Damascus, as well as the central flashpoint city of Homs and the northwestern town of Idlib.
"The army believes ... that if it manages to crush the revolt in those areas then this will put an end to the revolt nationwide," Asaad said, adding that his troops were more determined than ever to continue the fight.
"The people and the FSA will continue to resist, the revolt will continue and the regime will collapse," he said.
He added that the morale of army troops was extremely low.
"That's why they are bombing indiscriminately, killing men, women and children," he said.