Syrian tanks swoop on northwest town: activist

AFP , Thursday 16 Jun 2011

Syrian Army deploys reinforcements to enter the northwest town of Khan Sheikhun near Jisr al-Shughur

The Syrian army has stationed tanks at entrances to Khan Sheikhun in Idlib province and troops have begun to enter the northwest town, a rights activist said on Thursday.

"Dozens of tanks, armoured cars, personnel carriers and army trucks have been deployed at entrance points to Khan Sheikhun, and soldiers have started going in" to the town north of Hama, said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, reached by telephone.

He added that the military had also cut the road between Aleppo and the capital Damascus by erecting barricades.

On June 5, "two tanks of the Syrian army were burned by the residents of Khan Sheikhun," an activist told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The reinforcements were sent as part of a campaign by the regime in Idlib province 330 kilometres (200 miles) north of Damascus, where the army is continuing to comb Ariha and Maaret al-Numan near the flashpoint town of Jisr al-Shughur, an activist said.

On Wednesday near Jisr al-Shughur, officials showed journalists a grave containing at least five corpses they said were security forces.

Elsewhere, anti-regime protests were reported overnight in the Mezze district of Damascus and at Harasta, Jisrin and Saqba on its outskirts, as well as at Zabadani some 50 kilometres from the capital.

Abdel Rahman said thousands of people also protested in Hama, 210 kilometres from Damascus, and in other regions.

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