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Syria claims it has taken control of Haffa

Syria claims its forces have taken control of the rebel town of Haffa.

Syria haffa forces take rebel town june 13 2012Enlarge
Opponents to the Syrian president hold a banner which denounces the killing of Syrian children by Russian arms, in front of Le Louvre museum on June 12, 2012 in Paris. UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said on June 12 that Syria is now in a full-scale civil war as President Bashar al-Assad's military battles opposition forces around the country. (PIERRE VERDY/AFP/Getty Images)

The Syrian government claimed on Wednesday that its forces had taken control of Haffa, a western mountain town that was rebel-held, according to the BBC.

Syrian officials said the town had been "purged of terrorists" and calm had been restored.

The Associated Press reported that Haffa is of particular importance to the regime because it is around 20 miles from President Bashar al-Assad's hometown of Kardaha in the Latakia province.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius echoed United Nations peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous when he said Syria was already in a civil war. He said, "If you can't call it a civil war, then there are no words to describe it," according to the AP.

Syria's Foreign Ministry said it was astonished by that assessment and said, "Syria is not witnessing a civil war but rather an armed conflict to uproot terrorism and confront killings, kidnappings, bombings ... and other brutal acts by armed terrorist groups," according to the AP.

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According to the BBC, many feared a massacre in Haffa. UN monitors attempted a visit on Tuesday but had to turn back when they were fired on.

A wounded Free Syrian Army fighter, Mohammad, talked to Reuters while recovering in Turkey. He said, "First, helicopters attack the villages, later the tanks attack, and then at the end soldiers enter the houses, loot them and set fire to them."

At least 50 wounded had been smuggled across the border to Turkey, but many were trapped by the fierce fighting.

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After US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused Moscow of supplying Syria with attack helicopters on Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday, on a visit to Tehran, that the sale was completely legitimate, according to Reuters.

Lavrov went a step further and said it was the US that was "providing arms and weapons to the Syrian opposition that can be used in fighting against the Damascus government," reported Reuters.

Lavrov said, "I have announced time and again that our stance is not based on support for Bashar al-Assad or anyone else ... We don't want to see Syria disintegrate."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/syria/120613/syria-claims-it-has-taken-control-haffa