Syrian Forces Seize Northern Town in Attack Against Rebels

Syrian Forces Seize Northern Town in Attack Against Rebels
Syrian refugees walk past tents at the Boynuyogun Turkish Red Crescent camp in the Altinozu district of Hatay, Turkey. Photographer: Mustafa Ozer/AFP/Getty Images

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s security forces took control of the northwestern town of Jisr al-Shughour in an armed clash with rebels yesterday, five days after the regime says 120 government troops were killed.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described Assad’s response to the uprising as “revolting” and British Foreign Minister William Hague called the violence “unacceptable” and demanded that he allow the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross access to the Arab nation.

Units of the Syrian army took full control over Jisr al-Shughour after it rolled into the city yesterday to “purify it from members of armed groups,” Syrian television reported. The state-run network said the attack is a response to the killings of 120 security troops in the town on June 7.

Military forces are still pursuing “armed militants in the mountains” and in hiding, according to the report. Some of Assad’s forces switched sides and joined with rebels, the Associated Press reported.

Gunmen have been detained and two were killed in Jisr al-Shughour, according to state-run television. Heavy shelling and gunfire were heard in the town, according to the website of the human rights group Syrian Observatory. Since the beginning of the conflict in March, 1,289 civilians and 322 military service members have been killed, Syrian Observatory reported.

Burning Fields

Syrian forces are burning fields and firing their weapons at random, according to Cemil Utanc, the chief of the Turkish border town Guvecci, where refugees from Syria have fled. All but 5,000 of Jisr al-Shughour’s 45,000 residents have been driven away from the town, according to Mahmoud Merhi, head of the Damascus-based Arab Organization for Human Rights.

Bloomberg News couldn’t verify the claims. Syria has banned most journalists from the country and has restricted telephone and Internet access.

U.S. officials condemned the violent suppression of the resistance movement that began in Syria after unrest toppled regimes in Tunisia and Egypt. Syria is “engaging in horrific, revolting attacks on its own people,” Clinton said in a June 11 interview with Africa 360 during a visit to Tanzania, according to a transcript.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Republican who sits on the Armed Services Committee, said the U.S. and its allies shouldn’t rule out using military force to bring down Assad. Graham spoke on CBS’s “Face the Nation” yesterday.

Security Council

Britain, France, Germany and Portugal urged the United Nations Security Council on June 8 to adopt a resolution condemning the crackdown. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the U.S. supports the resolution. Russia, which has veto power over Security Council resolutions, has opposed it.

“We will continue to work with our international partners, including in the UN, to condemn the repression in Syria and call for the Syrian government to meet their people’s legitimate demands. The violence is unacceptable and must stop,” Hague said in a statement.

Libyan forces backing Muammar Qadaffi clashed with rebel forces in the port towns of Misrata and Zawiya over the weekend. Qaddafi’s forces have surrounded the rebel stronghold in Misrata, 125 miles east of Tripoli, and are maintaining efforts to drive opposition forces from the city.

Libyan Conflict

Libyan government troops began an artillery bombing campaign June 10, hours after the British helicopters, on behalf of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, hit Qaddafi’s forces outside Misrata. NATO used precision-guided weapons to destroy attack vehicles, the alliance said in an e-mailed statement.

In Zawiya, 18 miles west of Tripoli and a key supply route from Tunisia, rebels sought to reclaim the town they held for two weeks in March before being driven out by Qaddafi’s forces. Rebel forces claimed to have captured Sabha in southwestern Libya, the Transitional National Council said in a statement.

NATO reported yesterday destroying an armored vehicle equipped with anti-aircraft weapons. “NATO will maintain the pressure on the Qaddafi regime and continue to take action to protect civilians wherever they are under threat of attack,” Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard of Canada, commander of NATO’s Libya operation, said in the statement.

Qaddafi’s regime lost official recognition yesterday from the United Arab Emirates, which recognized the Transitional National Council as the “legitimate” representative of the Libyan people.

“There is no legitimacy in Libya today but of the TNC,” UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan said in a statement reported by the state-run Emirates News Agency. “This recognition affirms that the UAE is committed to maintaining strong ties with the Libyan people.”

Qatar recognized the TNC last week.

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