AMMAN - Tanks pounded a Syrian town that has become a refuge for army deserters for a second day on Wednesday, residents said, in the first major battle with defecting soldiers since a six-month-old revolt against President Bashar Assad began.
At least 1,000 deserters and armed villagers have been fighting tank- and helicopter-backed forces trying to regain control of Rastan, a town of 40,000, in central Syria.
"They have got a foothold in the southern part of Rastan, but the Free Syrian Army is fighting back and has destroyed three armoured vehicles," said one resident by satellite phone.
"Buildings have caught fire in several neighborhoods from tank fire," he said from the town, which lies about 180 km (112 miles) north of Damascus, among farmland and wheat fields on the Orontes River and on the northern highway leading to Aleppo.
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