Syrian troops kill 2 in sweep on agricultural plain

Syrian forces killed two villagers on Wednesday in an agricultural area acting as a supply line for defectors, and clamped down on a Damascus suburb where loyalist troops have been targeted in sporadic attacks, activists and residents said.

A 36-year-old milkman was among the two people killed when an armored column entered the town of Hayaleen and surrounding villages on the al-Ghab Plain. Troops fired machineguns from tanks and trucks and set fire to several houses after arresting around 100 people, they said.

It was not possible to confirm the events independently. The authorities, who blame the unrest on “armed terrorist groups,” have barred most independent media from Syria. They say troops are using lawful means to contain foreign-backed attacks on civilians, soldiers and police.

Thousands of soldiers have fled the regular army since it started cracking down on an eight-month protest movement to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. They have formed armed units loosely linked to the umbrella “Free Syrian Army,” led by officers hiding in Turkey.

Adnan, a farmer, told Reuters that a large Syrian army column had entered one small village alone.

“Twenty-five armored vehicles entered the village of Zor al-Kaada, which has only 700 people. Thirteen people were arrested from the al-Dinawi family alone,” he said by phone.

The region, northwest of the city of Hama, 240 km (150 miles) north of Damascus, has been a route for defectors operating in the rugged region of Jabal al-Zawiya in the province of Idlib near Turkey, activists said.

The area, near the famed ruins of the Roman city of Apamea, has also seen expanding demonstrations demanding Assad’s removal since an armored assault three months ago ended large protests in the city of Hama.

In Damascus, activists said defectors from the Obaida bin al-Jarrah brigade attacked overnight road blocks in the suburb of Harasta, where several hundred people have been detained since an attack by deserters last week on an Airforce Intelligence complex in the district.

Harasta is where the main northern highway enters Damascus, on the edge of the capital’s ancient gardens and farmland.

“Eight security police may have been killed or wounded. We heard the exchange of gunfire at around 1 am. The ‘amn’ (security police) resumed house-to-house arrests today and no young male can go out in the street without risking arrest,” said one activist, who gave his name as Omar.

By: Khaled Yacoud Oweis
Source: Reuters

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