Beirut: Helicopter gunships today fired on rebel positions in central and northwestern Syria in a bid to snuff out the gunmen as violence killed 52 people across the country, a monitoring group said.
Helicopters strafed rebels positions in Al-Heffa, in the northwestern province of Latakia, and in Rastan, in the central province of Homs, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Regime troops have pounded Al-Heffa daily for the past week to snuff out rebel Free Syrian Army fighters deployed in the rugged countryside near the Turkish border, activists said.
Activists said Monday's assault was violent and described the situation in Al-Heffa as "terrible," although there were no immediate reports of casualties.
"Army tanks are deployed at the entrances of the town. They have never come this close before," local activist Sema Nassar told AFP in Beirut via Skype, weeping as she spoke.
"There's only one doctor working to treat the wounded in the town," of 30,000 people, said Nassar, adding that most of the residents have fled.
"Some civilians have stayed behind to help the rebel fighters defend the town," she added.
Nassar also pointed to report carried by the official SANA news agency and Syrian TV claiming that "terrorists" were planning "to carry out a massacre" in Al-Heffa and nearby Tfil.
"This is cause for great concern. It seems there are plans to kill many people," said Nassar.
Government troops also used helicopters to attack rebel positions in the Homs province town of Rastan which has been under intermittent army shelling "for months," the Britain-based Observatory said.
Four civilians, including a young girl, were killed in the violence, it added.
Troops have trying to overrun Rastan since mid-May, after rebel fighters from the battered city of Homs regrouped in the town which straddles the main highway linking Damascus to the north.
Story first published:
June 11, 2012 20:50 IST