13 Jun 2012

Renewed fighting in Syria

10:46 pm on 13 June 2012

Fighting is continuing across Syria, but both sides are rejecting a United Nations suggestion their conflict is a civil war.

The Syrian government insists it is fighting terror groups and rebels say they are defending a peaceful uprising.

The BBC reports both sides have predicted a massacre at the western mountain town of Haffa, where rebel fighters are besieged and surrounded by government forces.

United Nations monitors trying to reach Haffa have been turned back by angry crowds who threw stones and metal rods at them.

A UN spokeswoman said three UN vehicles were fired on as they left the area on Tuesday.

The UN said its monitors had been trying since 7 June to reach Haffa.

On Wednesday activists said the rebels were withdrawing from villages around the town.

Meanwhile the Local Co-ordination Committees, a network of anti-government groups, said the latest violence included shelling in the town of Bosra el-sham near Deraa in the south.

They said at least five people had been killed there on Wednesday.

The LCC also reported shelling by government forces in the city of Rastan, near Homs, and heavy gunfire in Deir al-Zour in the east.

On Tuesday, activists said at least 60 people had been killed across the country.

Such claims cannot be verified independently as Syria severely restricts journalists' freedom of movement.

UN says Syria now full-scale civil war

The head of UN head peacekeeping says the 15-month-old conflict in Syria has grown into a full-scale civil war.

Herve Ladsous, UN Under-Secretary for Peacekeeping Operations told reporters at the UN that the Syrian government is attempting to recapture large swathes of urban territory it has lost to the opposition.

It is the first time a senior UN official has declared that the Syrian conflict is a civil war, Reuters reports.

Mr Ladsous said there were confirmed reports of not only of the use of tanks and artillery but also attack helicopters.

Activists have accused Syrian government forces of being behind the killing of 108 people in the region of Houla in Homs province and 78 others in the village of al-Qubeir this month.