Syria rebels besiege town on Turkish border



HAREM, Syria, Herve Bar- Syrian rebels laid siege Sunday to Harem, on the Turkish border, confronting the army and security forces positioned in government buildings and the town's old castle, an AFP correspondent reported.
The battle for control of the northern town lasted all day, with the rebels reporting that many of the 20,000 or so residents had taken up arms and were fighting alongside the forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.



Syria rebels besiege town on Turkish border
Perched on a mountainside only about two kilometres (1.2 miles) from the border with Turkey, Harem has been surrounded by rebels who have converged on the town by sneaking through groves of olive trees and abandoned houses.
They have been targeted by regime snipers who have holed themselves up in the castle that dominates the entire valley.
Fire from heavy weapons, including mortars, smashes periodically into the orchards and the main entrance into the town, sending up plumes of smoke.
The rebels control six of the seven roads leading into Harem, according to their commander Abu Said, of the Al-Haq brigade.
"Today we killed a chief of the shabiha (pro-government militia)," said Abu Said.
"We entered the town at dawn yesterday (Saturday) from the north and south," he said, adding that soldiers, backed by seven tanks, retreated to the castle. "Members of the security services occupy official buildings."
On Saturday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported heavy clashes and a number of soldiers killed in Harem.
"We killed many soldiers but their bodies are still lying over there," said Abu Said, a commander of the Free Syrian Army, pointing to the battlefield.
"Four shabiha were killed and we burned a dozen of their homes, just as they have done in our villages," he said.
A mainly Sunni town, Harem is known to have a number of supporters of Assad, a member of the minority Alawite sect linked to Shiite Islam, according to the rebels.
"There are weapons in all the houses, they are well equipped .. the town is hostile," said one rebel fighter.
Exhausted by a new day of fighting, most of the rebel fighters returned on Sunday night to their base in the nearby city of Rass al-Hsan, with a truck seized from the government military as a trophy.
On their way back, their convoy of several vehicles, with a pickup truck loaded with a 14.5mm heavy machinegun leading the way, was acclaimed in every village it passed through.
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Monday, September 3rd 2012
Herve Bar
           


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