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Sunday, October 2, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Tens of thousands of Syrian forces retake
rebel-held city

NICOSIA — Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces have retaken a rebel-dominated city.


Opposition sources said Assad directed the largest military operation yet in the seven-month revolt in Syria. They said the Syrian Army sent tens of thousands of soldiers and hundreds of Russian-origin main battle tanks and armored personnel carriers to quell a military mutiny in Rastan, a city of 40,000 located 180 kilometers north of Damascus.

"Seriously-injured people in Rastan have been unable to receive medical care because of the continuing military operations," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

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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.

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