Troops and tanks swept into a restive town near Damascus on Thursday in an assault aimed at crushing opposition to President Bashar al-Assad, whose struggle to keep power has dragged Syria into an increasingly bloody civil war.
Artillery and helicopters hammered the town of Daraya for 24 hours, killing 15 people and wounding 150, before soldiers moved in and raided houses, opposition sources said.
About 100 people, including 59 civilians, were killed in violence across the country, according to the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, adding that?some 200 were killed on Wednesday.
There was little resistance as Assad's forces pushed toward the centre of Daraya, on the southwest edge of Damascus. Armed rebels had apparently already left, activists in Damascus said.
“They are using mortar bombs to clear each sector. Then they enter it, while moving towards the centre,’’ Abu Zeid, an activist said.
Assad's military had driven insurgents from most of the areas they seized in and around the capital after a bomb killed four top security officials on July 18.
But rebels have crept back, regrouping without taking on the army in pitched battles.
Punitive military raids and summary killings appear to be one response as Assad strives to keep control of Damascus and the northern commercial hub of Aleppo, opposition sources say.
Tanks and troops attacked the southwestern Damascus suburb of Mouadamiya on Monday and Tuesday, killing 86 people, half of them in cold blood, according to Assad's opponents.
It was hard to verify the assertion due to state curbs on independent media. Syrian leaders say they are fighting “armed terrorists’’ backed by Western and Gulf Arab nations out to topple Assad for his resistance to Israel and the U.S.
Some foreign fighters from Arab and other countries have joined Syrian rebels, possibly including Rustam Gelayev, son of a late Chechen rebel warlord in Russia's Caucasus region.
Russian media and websites sympathetic to Islamist insurgents in the Caucasus reported that Gelayev had been killed in Syria, with some saying he had been fighting against Assad.
Russia's Kommersant daily, however, cited a relative of Gelayev as saying he had been studying in Syria, had decided to leave due to the violence and was killed on his way to Turkey.? (Reuters/NAN)