Syrian troops shell villages for first time

JERUSALEM (JWN and agencies)—The Syrian Army responded to an attack by rebel defectors Thursday night by shelling two northern villages. This was the first reported sustained shelling of opponents to President Bashar Assad’s regime since the uprising began eight months ago.

Reuters reported that eight villagers were wounded in the three-hour barrage by tanks and heavy mortars on Tal Minnij and Maarshamsheh.

“Hundreds of families have left. Electricity and Internet services have been cut off,” said one of the rebels.

The brutal assault against the two unfortified villages followed the Arab League’s suspension of Syria and ordering it to comply with a league peace plan. According to UN figures, some 3,500 civilians have been killed since the revolt began.

Reuters reported that army defectors had earlier attacked security forces in a building near army depots on the edge of the town of Maarat al-Numaan, 290 km (180 miles) north of Damascus.