BEIRUT: The Syrian army began a military operation in a restive town near the Turkish border, state television said on Friday, as the country braced for more violent protests against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.
The Syrian government said earlier that ”armed gangs” killed more than 120 security personnel in Jisr al-Shughour, a town of 50,000, earlier this week. ”Our correspondent in Jisr al-Shughour told us now that in response to people’s calls, units from the Syrian Arabic Army started its duties in Jisr al-Shughour … to arrest armed members,” the television said. Rami Abdulrahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said residents in the northwestern town told him the army was still advancing towards the town. ”They can hear gunfire and so far we do not have any casualty reports,” he told Reuters.
Thousands of Syrians in the region fled into Turkey on Thursday fearing the military assault. At least 15,000 troops had deployed near Jisr al-Shughour, which residents said had largely emptied of people. The latest reports of a government crackdown intensified international concerns over Syria’s handling of pro-democracy protests, inspired by uprisings across the Arab world. Britain, France, Germany and Portugal have asked the UN Security Council to condemn Assad, although veto-wielding Russia has said it would oppose such a move.
World powers have shown no appetite for any Libya-style military intervention in Syria, which has so far shrugged off sanctions and verbal reprimands from abroad. (PTI)