After eight days of bombardment, Syrian government forces reclaimed the northwestern town of al Haffa on Wednesday, forcing rebels to stage a dawn retreat.
President Bashar al-Assad's government said through the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency that its forces had "restored security and calm after clearing it from the armed terrorist groups."
It said it had seized a cache of armaments, including sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and explosive devices.
An opposition group said rebel forces withdrew from Haffa and surrounding villages "in order to preserve the lives of civilians." The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Haffa had been under heavy shelling for eight straight days.
Fighting raged elsewhere as well, as the Syrian military pummeled cities from both the ground and sky, opposition activists said.
The Homs province city of Rastan came under fresh attack from planes and rocket-propelled grenades, the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria said.
At least 49 people were killed Wednesday, including 16 in Homs, the group said.
The escalating violence prompted the United Nations peacekeeping chief to become the first official from the global body to declare the Syrian crisis a civil war.
"Yes, I think we can say that," Herve Ladsous said Tuesday. "Clearly what is happening is that the government of Syria lost some large chunks of territory, several cities to the opposition, and wants to retake control."FULL STORY