Seven dead in shelling of Syria's Rastan: NGO

AFP , Sunday 4 Mar 2012

Syrian rights groups report that at least seven people killed including children by the Syrian regime forces in the strategic city of Rastan

Four children were among seven civilians killed in shelling by regime forces of the mainly rebel-held city of Rastan in central Syria on Sunday, a monitoring group said.

The victims included six family members killed when a rocket slammed into their home, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights which reported intensive shelling of Rastan since daybreak.

"Seven people, six of them family members and including a woman and four children, were killed when a rocket hit a house in Rastan," said Abdel Rahman, whose watchdog earlier gave a death toll of three.

Abdel Rahman told AFP that "positions of deserters in the north of Rastan have been subject to intensive shelling."

Army deserters were routed from the Baba Amr district of the nearby city of Homs on Thursday and had since been bracing for an onslaught on Rastan and Qusayr, another town near Homs, according to the Britain-based Observatory.

The rebel fighters declared Rastan to be "liberated" from President Bashar al-Assad's control on February 5. Rastan is a strategic city as, like Homs, it falls on the main road linking Damascus with northern Syria.

The rebels fled Baba Amr in the face of a withering ground assault by regime forces following a 27-day shelling blitz which the US-based Human Rights Watch said had killed some 700 people.

The Observatory had on Friday reported 12 civilians, including five children, killed when a rocket slammed into a crowd of protesters in Rastan.

The latest deaths in Rastan raised to at least 10 the number of civilians killed across Syria on Sunday, according to the Observatory which also reported that a soldier was killed in the northeast province of Idlib.

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