UN monitors find Syria town deserted

A United Nations convoy arrived in the Syrian town of Haffeh on Thursday to find it almost deserted, with state buildings burnt down, shops abandoned and a body lying in the street.

UN monitors, who have been trying to enter the town after several days of intense clashes between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and rebel fighters, were forced to turn back on Tuesday when a mob attacked them.

Rebels pulled out of the town this week, but joined the United States in warning that some of the thousands of remaining citizens could be killed in cold blood.

A Reuters photographer saw smoke rising from destroyed buildings and burnt-out cars in Haffeh, where there were signs of heavy bombardment. Only a handful of residents were in evidence, and one said 26,000 people had fled.

The main offices of the ruling Baath party, the town’s post office and a branch of the Ministry of Agriculture had also been burnt down.

The uprising against Assad’s autocratic rule began as a peaceful pro-democracy movement in March 2011 but has increasingly given way, after a bloody crackdown by Assad’s forces.

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