Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Haffah: Syrian Authorities Say Strife-Torn Haffah Secured.


BEIRUT -- After a week of reported clashes with rebels, Syrian forces have “restored security and calm” to the strife-ridden western highland town of Haffah in coastal Latakia province, the official Syrian news service reported Wednesday.

Syrian authorities were pursuing “armed terrorist groups” — as the government refers to insurgents — into neighboring villages, “leading to the killing of many terrorists” and the arrest of others, reported the official Syrian Arab News Agency.

Opposition activists say the military had been besieging the formerly rebel-controlled area in the hills east of the important coastal city of Latakia. The opposition accused the military of bombarding  residential areas with artillery, tanks and attack helicopters. The U.S. State Department warned of a possible massacre of civilians by pro-government forces in Haffah.
Syrian officials accused the rebels of committing “heinous crimes” in the town, including murdering civilians, burning a hospital, looting and vandalism.

Reports from opposition activists on Wednesday also indicated that insurgents had been pulling back from Haffah. Neither the official accounts nor the opposition statements could be independently verified because the Syrian government restricts the access of outside media to the conflict zones.

The government push in Haffah appeared to be part of a broader offensive to regain control of towns and neighborhoods across the nation that had fallen into the hands of rebels seeking the ouster of President Bashar more