ANTALYA, Turkey (Reuters) - Syrian forces killed at least 11 civilians in Rastan on Thursday, two human rights campaigners said, in the fifth day of a tank-backed siege of the central Syrian town that has seen street protests.
Ammar Qurabi, head of the Syrian Human Rights Organization, and lawyer Razan Zaitouna told Reuters the 11 named civilians were killed by gunfire from snipers and security forces as they stormed neighborhoods in the town of 60,000 people north of the city of Homs and imposed a curfew.
At least 52 civilians have been killed and 200 arrested in Rastan since the military assault began on Sunday, they added.
“These are killings we documented, but the real numbers are definitely more. To those who want retribution I say: this is the age of international justice and the killers will be held accountable,” Qurabi said during a conference of the Syrian opposition in Turkey.
“There have been rare instances of people who have seen their parents, wives or children being killed, (people) taking their personal weapons and trying to resist. But they were smothered by the overwhelming and unjustifiable force being used by the authorities,” he added.
Qurabi said his Organization had the names of 1,113 civilians killed since the uprising against the 11-year rule of President Bashar al-Assad erupted in Syria’s southern Hauran Plain on March 18.
A military crackdown to quell demonstrations has intensified in the last several weeks.
Tanks backed by troops encircled several towns and villages in the central province of Homs this week, including the town of Talbiseh, where a resident said 17 civilians had been killed since Sunday.
The official state news agency said four soldiers were killed by “armed terrorist groups” in Rastan on Wednesday and were buried on Thursday. The agency said several wounded soldier “affirmed that they were fired upon by strange weapons” in Rastan.
“A number of parents expressed their pride in the martyrdom of their sons and affirmed that the convoys of martyrs who watered the soil of the homeland with their blood strengthens the unity of this soil,” the agency said.
Activists said there has been numerous cases of secret police shooting soldiers for refusing to fire at protesters or to participate in attacking population centres.
Syrian has barred most international media, making it difficult to verify accounts of the violence.
Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis; Editing by Jon Boyle