Syria forces ‘storm rebel town despite peace pledge’

AFP reports: Syrian forces on Wednesday stormed a rebel bastion despite President Bashar al-Assad’s reported acceptance of Kofi Annan’s peace plan and an opposition plea that tanks be withdrawn, monitors said.

The assault came as China urged Syria’s government and opposition to honour commitments to halt armed conflict and Arab foreign ministers were thrashing out a resolution on Syria to be debated at a landmark Arab League summit in Baghdad.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Syrian forces backed by tanks swept into the central town of Qalaat al-Madiq and nearby villages early on Wednesday after a siege lasting more than two weeks.

The Britain-based monitoring group said the troops entered the town, in Hama province, just after dawn following a 17-day barrage of shelling and heavy gunfire to root out rebels.

It added however that the army was not in full control of the town.

“Heavy clashes between regime forces and armed rebels are preventing the army from advancing,” the Observatory said. “Intense gunfire and explosions can be heard in nearby villages.”

Abu Ghazi, a local activist reached by Skype, told AFP in Beirut that members of the rebel Free Syrian Army had withdrawn from the area because of the regular army’s superior firepower.

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