May 22, 2013
Assad forces accused of using cluster bombs as rebels gain
Syrian government forces have dropped Russian-made cluster bombs over civilian areas in the past week as they battle to reverse rebel gains on a strategic highway, Human Rights Watch said.
Rebels surrounded an army garrison near a northwestern town, in the latest push to seize more territory in a province near the Turkish border, opposition activists said. Rebels also posted video on the Internet purportedly showing a fighter jet they had shot down in the area the previous day.
Several hundred soldiers were trapped in the siege of a base in Urum al-Sughra, on the main road between the contested city of Aleppo, Syria's commercial and industrial hub, and Turkey.
"Rebels attacked an armored column sent from Aleppo to rescue the 46th Regiment at Urum al-Sughra and stopped it in its tracks," Firas Fuleifel, one of the activists told Reuters by phone from Idlib province, west of Aleppo. He said the jet was shot down while trying to provide air support to the column.
Rebels say they have been extending their control on the rugged agricultural province throughout the past week, capturing several towns on the border and making gains in the al-Rouge plain west of the city of Idlib, the provincial capital.
The province is the main base and supply route for rebels fighting urban warfare against Assad's forces for control of Aleppo, a city of several million people that could determine the course of the 18-month rebellion against Assad.