Activists: Intense Shelling, 6 Deaths in Syria

Posted May 23rd, 2012 at 6:00 am (UTC-5)
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Activists say Syrian forces pounded targets in the opposition stronghold of Rastan, and at least six people have died in anti-government related unrest elsewhere in the country.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights tells VOA intense government shelling took place early Wednesday in Rastan.

The British-based group also says an explosion near Damascus left three people dead and three others were killed into anti-government related violence elsewhere in the country.

Meanwhile, the head of Lebanon's powerful Hezbollah militant group appealed for calm after protests erupted in Beirut, following the kidnapping of at least 11 male pilgrims traveling through Syria.

Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah urged restraint in a Tuesday address broadcast by Lebanese television stations. He said officials were working with Syrian authorities for a quick resolution.

Earlier Tuesday, gunmen stopped and boarded a bus carrying Lebanese Shi'ites who transiting Syria after visiting holy shrines in Iraq. The gunmen freed several dozen women who were on the bus.

Television video, on Wednesday, showed the women being greeted by relatives as they arrived at a Beirut airport.

One woman told the Reuters news agency the captors claimed they were part of the opposition Free Syrian Army. Members of the Free Syrian Army denied the group was responsible.

The unrest occurred as U.N. monitors continued efforts to monitor a fragile cease-fire brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan in April. U.N. officials have estimated more than 10,000 people have been killed since anti-government unrest erupted over a year ago.