Syrian rebels and government forces battled Monday in the city of Rastan, a rebel stronghold north of Homs that has been bombarded with heavy shelling since Sunday. Scores of people have been wounded in the fighting.
Bloody videos from the embattled city showed wounded children crying and screaming. The video above, said to be shot in Rastan on Monday, shows a gray sea of rubble after the attacks.
Abu Samra, an opposition activist in Rastan, said the regime attacked the city of 100,000 people because it has sheltered the Free Syrian Army, an armed rebel group. Electricity and water were cut off Sunday. Only 5,000 people or fewer remained in the besieged city, the activist said.
“People who are better off fled to suburbs of Hama or to Damascus and Tartous,” Abu Samra, who asked to be identified by his nickname for safety's sake, said in a telephone interview Monday. The rest were hiding on farms a few miles away, he said.
Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said 23 soldiers from the regular Syrian army were killed during clashes, along with seven rebels and civilians. The activist group Avaaz said 60 people had been injured in the shelling; a Rastan activist reached Monday put the count even higher at 80 people.
The Syrian government has restricted journalists' access to the conflict, and the accounts and video images could not be independently verified.
While violence was reported to be raging in Rastan, the official Syrian Arab News Agency reported that two Syrian army officers were assassinated in Dara and Jobar on the outskirts of Damascus. One was shot as he left a barber shop, the account said; the other was killed by a band of armed men who opened fire near his home.
"There is a clear increase in the number of assassinations of army officers. But it still doesn't have an impact. It might have an opposite effect; officers will remain loyal because of fear," said Tammam, an activist from Damascus who has fled Syria.
The ongoing violence has undercut hopes that a peace plan brokered by United Nations and Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan would quell the chaos and killing in Syria, where an uprising against President Bashar Assad and the ensuing government crackdown is believed to have killed more than 10,000 people. Even under the watch of U.N. monitors, attacks have continued.
The video below, said to be taken in Rastan, shows people toting guns hurrying through the streets as the sound of gunfire rings out. One injured man limps on the arm of another. The video says the men shown are Free Syrian Army fighters:
This video purports to show the Free Syrian Army taking control of an army tank and vehicle. Halfway through the clip, the same footage repeats with no sound:
This last video purports to show two injured boys hurt in the Rastan attacks. (Warning: This video is graphic.) The first boy, who says he is 14 years old, calls for his mother and father and moans, "My head, my head. A bomb hit near us."
— Rima Marrouch in Amman, Jordan and Emily Alpert in Los Angeles