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Feras Bourhan,the Free Syrian army commander in Zabadani, the only town in Syria officially held by the rebels, attends a meeting with the local council, set up to try and run the affairs of the hill town which is surrounded by government forces. Protests against the ruling Baathist regime of Bashar al-Assad erupted in March 2011. Although they were initially peaceful,  they were violently repressed by the Syrian army and police. In response to being ordered to shoot unarmed civilians, large numbers of men deserted the army and formed the Free Syrian Army. The protest movement has now turned into an armed uprising with clashes between the regular army and the Free Syrian Army taking place in early 2012..