Syrian tanks storm town near Lebanon border

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 13, 2012 1:25 PM
Syrian tanks storm town near Lebanon border

AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian troops backed by tanks stormed a town near the border with Lebanon on Friday, an opposition leader in contact with residents said, in the first major military offensive since Arab monitors went into the country last month.

"Communications have been cut but we managed to get through to several people. Tanks are bombarding the town and have entered the outskirts, but they are being met with resistance. The Free Syrian Army (army defectors) has strong presence in the area," Kamal al-Labwani, a senior opposition figure from Zabadani who fled to Jordan two weeks ago, told Reuters.

Zabadani, a town of 40,000, 30 km (19 miles) northwest of Damascus, has seen regular big demonstrations demanding the removal of President Bashar al-Assad.

"The people of Zabadani have taken up arms to protect themselves and I am afraid we could see lots of casualties. At least 50 tanks are involved in the attack and explosions are already being heard in residential areas," Labwani said.

(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis, Amman newsroom)