Al-Sharq al-Awsat (In Arabic)
London, UK
May 28 2013

Syrian oppositionists accuse the regime of shelling churches in
Dayr al-Zawr.

Reports say 170 military personnel defected near the border with Israel

Syrian activists affirmed that the regular forces targeted several
churches belonging to the Christian Sect in the City of Dayr al-Zawr,
eastern Syria. Opposition websites posted on the Internet videos
showing the extent of damage that these churches suffered as a result
of shelling by the regular forces.

An activist based in Dayr al-Zawr told Al-Sharq al-Awsat that the
regime's planes shelled two churches belonging to the Orthodox
Syriacs. He added that all Christian families fled the city when it
came under heavy bombardment as clashes between the opposition and
the regime forces intensified.

Member of both the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and
Opposition Forces and the National Council Abd-al-Ahad Istifu confirmed
that regular forces shelled churches in Dayr al-Zawr.

Speaking to Al-Sharq al-Awsat, he said that all Christian families
left the city because of the excessive violence in the city.

He added: "The Christians, especially the Armenians who form a
considerable section of the population in the area, have a bad memory
of persecution. This prompts them to emigrate quickly when any form
of violence takes place." Istifu held the Syrian regime responsible
for displacing the city's Christians. He noted that a climate of
fanaticism and extremism helped in frightening the Christians and
prompting them to leave.

Elsewhere, the opposition local coordination committees said yesterday
that more than 170 military personnel, including officers, defected
from the regular forces in the City of Al-Qunaytirah near the occupied
Golan. Syrian oppositionists posed on YouTube a video showing the
defected military personnel being protected in Al-Qunaytirah.

Opposition activists said that the military personnel defected with
help from the Abu-al-Ward Salafi Jihadist Group that operates in the
Khan al-sheikh complex in the western countryside, in cooperation
with fighter battalions.

According to the opposition sources, this defection comes after 13
military personnel, including officers, announced that they defected
from the 143rd Battalion and the 160th Company in the Town of Tasil
in Dar'a during clashes that have been going on for some time now
along the cease-fire line between Syria and Israel.

The free army in the City of Al-Qunaytirah is engaged in violent
clashes with the regular forces in a persistent attempt to storm the
Al-Saraya Building where the 90th Brigade is deployed.

For its part, the opposition Sham Network reported that the free army
provided protection for three military personnel who defected from
the Dayr al-Zawr Airfield.

Also, seven conscripts belonging to the Alawite Sect defected from
the Al-Khazzanat Roadblock in the Khan Shaykhun area in Idlib, the
coordination committees said.

Meanwhile, clashes continued in the Syrian capital Damascus, namely
in the District of Jawbar where the free army has established posts
only hundreds of meters from the Al-Abbasiyin Square.

According to sources in the opposition, several shells fell in the
District of Al-Qabun wounding some of the district's residents. Also,
sounds of several explosions were heard in the capital's countryside.

In another development, clashes intensified around the Al-Thalathin
Street in the Al-Yarmuk [Palestinian Refugee] Camp in the south of
the capital. Activists said that large-calibre weapons were used
in the clashes. A fire broke out in the camp's Safad Street after
snipers belonging to regular forces fired incendiary bullets, the
activists said.

In Homs, activists reported that violent clashes broke out in the
districts of Jawbar and Al-Sultaniyah between regular forces and
battalions of the free army as the daily confrontations continue in
Al-Khalidiyah and Baba Amr, which is now under the regular forces'

Meanwhile , fighting continued in the City of Al-Raqqah, which was
controlled by the opposition battalions a while ago. The clashes took
place around the post of the besieged 17th Division in the city's
countryside. Clashes also continued in areas in Aleppo and Idlib where
scores of people were killed in rocket and artillery bombardment and
clashes around military bases, the coordination committees reported.

[Translated from Arabic]