'Syrian tanks pull back from rebel town'

Senior opposition leader says ceasefire with government reached, but fighting could renew "at any time."

By REUTERS
January 19, 2012 11:06
1 minute read.
Syrian protestors at a funeral

Syrian protestors at a funeral 311. (photo credit: Reuters)

 
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AMMAN - Syrian forces have pulled back from a rebel-held town near Lebanon after an agreement with insurgents to end fighting, a senior opposition leader in contact with residents said on Thursday.

Dozens of tanks and armored vehicles that had been surrounding Zabadani, 30 km northwest of Damascus, pulled back on Wednesday night to military garrisons 8 km away, and food and basic supplies have started reaching the town, Kamal al-Labwani told Reuters.

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"The attack on Zabadani could renew any time. They may have pulled out of the area because they want to replace troops that have been hesitant to storm the town with more loyal forces," said Labwani, who is in the Jordanian capital.

President Bashar Assad's forces attacked Zabadani on Friday, after frequent demonstrations against his rule in the mixed Sunni Muslim and Christian town, situated near smuggling routes in mountains separating Syria from Lebanon.

It was the first big military assault since Arab monitors arrived in the country last month. Residents and opposition sources say insurgents managed to hold back the attacking troops until a ceasefire was reached on Tuesday.

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There was no immediate comment from the Syrian authorities and state media have not mentioned the Zabadani ceasefire or five days of fighting that preceded it.

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