BEIRUT - Twenty-five people were killed in army shelling in the central Syrian town of Halfayeh on Friday after a months-old local truce between the army and rebels fighters broke down, opposition activists said.
Halfayeh has been in rebel hands for more than five months and a truce was agreed there between the warring parties in an attempt to protect thousands of citizens, an activist from the region who called himself Safi al-Hamawi told Reuters.
But President Bashar Assad's forces issued an ultimatum to the town's elders saying the rebels must leave by Thursday evening and started shelling it heavily as the deadline passed, Hamawi said.
Amateur video footage posted on the Internet by opposition activists shows dozens of people wading through a river to escape the bombardment. A voice off camera says Halfayeh is under siege and this was the only route out to "escape a massacre" by government forces.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an anti-Assad group, said that it had confirmed five deaths but was working to corroborate other claims.