Beirut: Residents used automatic rifles
and rocket-propelled grenades to repel advancing government troops in central Syria, putting up a fierce fight for the first time in their two-month-old revolt against President Bashar Assad`s autocratic regime.
The escalation raised fears the popular uprising may
be moving toward a Libya-style armed conflict.
Until now, the opposition against Assad has taken the
form of peaceful protests by unarmed demonstrators, though
authorities have claimed, without offering solid proof, that
it was being led by armed gangs and propelled by foreign
Activists said residents of the towns of Talbiseh and
Rastan, which have been under attack since Sunday in central
Homs province, decided to fight back with automatic rifles and
rocket-propelled grenades, and at least four civilians were
"They felt that they cannot sit back any more and pray
for God to help them," said one Homs resident who has wide
connections in the province.
He, like all residents contacted by The Associated
Press, spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
Another two bodies were found early Monday in the area
of Bab Amro cemetery, raising the death toll from the two-day
crackdown in the country`s turbulent heartland to 15, said the
Local Coordination Committees in Syria, which helps organize
and document the protests.
State media said four soldiers were killed. "The army
is facing armed resistance and is not able to enter the two
towns," the Homs resident said.
"The army is still outside the towns and I was told
that army vehicles, including armored personnel carriers, were
set on fire."