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Syrians flee town as tanks, troops loom

GUVECCI, Turkey — Hundreds fled a town in northern Syria on Wednesday that appeared to be the next target of a military seeking to crush a three-month uprising against President Bashar Assad, activists said. They joined thousands already displaced in a growing crisis that has embarrassed the Syrian government.

In a succession of often bloody operations, the Syrian military has sent tanks and soldiers to the country's most restive areas. This week, forces were deployed to eastern Syria, a region that borders Iraq and is knit by extended clans, as well as the northern town of Ma'arrat an Nu'man, which is on the highway between Damascus, the capital, and Aleppo, Syria's second largest city.

Though the Syrian military said its forces had yet to enter the town, activists said hundreds of residents, and perhaps more, had already begun heading to other Syrian cities and the Turkish border. Insan, a Syrian human rights group, said security forces detained 17 people on Wednesday as they left the town, a historic site in Syria.

In the past week, the crackdown — and fear of more violence at the hands of the government — has uprooted thousands of Syrians. Nearly 8,500 are in three camps across the border in Turkey, and thousands more are stranded on the Syrian side. Most of them were driven from Jisr al-Shughour, which the government retook Sunday.

The Syrian government has sought to persuade Syrians to return to Jisr al-Shughour, where armed groups, military defectors or a combination of both seized control of the town for a while earlier this month.

Syrians flee town as tanks, troops loom 06/15/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 15, 2011 10:51pm]
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