By Oct. 1, Assad forces were said to have captured most of Rastan in
five days of heavy fighting. Rebel forces were said to have fled the city as
the regime shut down Internet and telephone communications.
"The units responsible have inflicted big losses on the armed terrorist
groups," the official Syrian news agency, Sana, said on Sept. 30.
Assad was believed to have regarded Rastan as the key to the regime
campaign against the opposition. Opposition sources said at least 2,000
Sunni soldiers, many of them with their weapons, defected and joined the
Free Syrian Army.
Over the last three days, the regime also ordered air strikes around
Rastan, located in the Homs province and deemed a stronghold of the Muslim
Brotherhood. The sources said the Syrian Air Force conducted at least six
bombing sorties on Rastan in a 24-hour period, which destroyed four mosques.
The Reform Party in Syria said the Army deployed 40,000 soldiers and 200
MBTs to Rastan, home of former Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlas. The
Washington-based opposition group said Assad ordered the execution of Lt.
Abdul Razik Tlas, commander of the rebel Khalid Bin Al Walid Brigade and
relative of the former defense minister.
"If Rastan is assisted internationally, it will help unleash a large
number of defections in the Syrian Army," RPS said.
The minority Kurdish community was also said to have joined the revolt
against Assad. Opposition sources said at least 500 Kurds were training
along Syrian border with Iraq since June.
On Sept. 28, the opposition reported the assassination of a Syrian
nuclear engineer in Homs. The opposition identified the engineer as Aws
Abdul Kharim Khalil.