Syrian Forces Close in on City, Residents Flee

Posted June 11th, 2011 at 1:35 pm (UTC-5)
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Syrian security forces backed by tanks increased their efforts to control a northern city near Turkey's border, as the number of Syrians who have fled into Turkey swelled to more than 4,300.

Turkish officials say they expect the influx of refugees to continue. Most of the Syrians are from Jisr al-Shughour. Witnesses and activists say soldiers appear to be sealing off the city, after the government accused “armed gangs” there of killing 120 security personnel and promised decisive action.

A state-run media report, Saturday, says army units have arrested “two leading groups of armed gangs” in the city. It says security forces seized weapons and explosives during the arrests.

On Friday, at least 32 people were killed as protesters across Syria rallied against President Bashar al-Assad's government. Activists say security forces opened fire on demonstrators in several cities.

They say at least seven protesters were killed in the town of Latakia as they tried to tear down a giant poster of Mr. Assad. The French News Agency says about 3,000 mourners turned out on Saturday for the funeral of one of the protesters killed in the city.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Syria is engaging in “horrific” attacks against its citizens. But, she says the international community is not currently considering a plan to act militarily against Syria — as in Libya– because there is not a regional consensus.

At the United Nations, diplomats held new talks on a draft resolution condemning the violence, but failed to reach an agreement. Many Western nations support the measure, but Russia and China have voiced opposition.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon tried several times to call Mr. Assad, but U.N. officials said the Syrian leader has refused to take the calls. Later, Mr. Ban said the use of military force against civilians was “unacceptable,” and he expressed concern about the carnage.

Rights groups say at least 1,100 people have been killed in the Syrian crackdown that began in March and more than 10,000 people arrested.