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Syrian security forces conduct mass arrests in troubled north


June 16, 2011 - Syrian security forces fanned out through villages and towns in the northern province of Idlib Thursday, randomly hauling in males over age 16 as the regime worked to silence a center of anti-regime protest. In this border region, where thousands of Syrian civilians have fled to havens in Turkey, Turkish officials were preparing to send food, clean water, medicine and other aid to thousands more stranded on the Syrian side. The unusual plan for a cross-border operation on Syrian soil seemed to have Syrian clearance, being announced by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu after he met with a Syrian envoy....


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Syrian security forces conduct mass arrests in troubled north

Associated Press


June 16, 2011 02:48 AM

GUVECCI, Turkey: Syrian security forces fanned out through villages and towns in the northern province of Idlib Thursday, randomly hauling in males over age 16 as the regime worked to silence a center of anti-regime protest.

In this border region, where thousands of Syrian civilians have fled to havens in Turkey, Turkish officials were preparing to send food, clean water, medicine and other aid to thousands more stranded on the Syrian side.

The unusual plan for a cross-border operation on Syrian soil seemed to have Syrian clearance, being announced by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu after he met with a Syrian envoy.

"We have taken precautions and humanitarian aid will be supplied for around 10,000 people who are waiting on the Syrian side of the border," Davutoglu said. He also reiterated Turkey’s support for major democratic reform in Syria.

The random detentions were concentrated around the major towns of Jisr al-Shughour and Maaret al-Numan and in nearby villages, an area where the army has massed troops for days in apparent preparation for a fresh military operation, Syrian human rights activist Mustafa Osso reported.

He said at least 300 people were being detained daily.

He also said troops opened fire early Thursday on the outskirts of Maaret al-Numan, a town of 100,000 on the highway linking Damascus with Syria’s second-largest city, Aleppo. No casualties were reported.

Another source, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights,said dozens of tanks, armored personnel carriers and buses carrying security forces were deploying around the town of Khan Sheikhon, south of Maaret al-Numan, and residents were fleeing.

Since anti-government protests erupted in mid-March, inspired by democratic revolutions in autocrat-ruled Tunisia and Egypt, President Bashar Assad has unleashed the military in area after area to crush street demonstrations.

Human rights activists say more than 1,400 Syrians have been killed, and 10,000 have been detained.

The most recent resistance, in Idlib Province, appeared also to pose the most serious threat of an armed opposition base being established within Syria.

Turkey already is hosting 8,900 Syrians who have fled the Idlib crackdown, a refugee stream that has been an embarrassing public spectacle for Damascus, which has banned foreign journalists in order to control coverage of the uprising.

Syria has appealed to the refugees to return to the flashpoint town of Jisr al-Shughour, saying it’s now safe.

But many sound unconvinced.

One resident, in hiding in the mountains surrounding Jisr al-Shughur, told The Daily Star by telephone that all those who returned to the area after giving themselves up had been arrested at checkpoints.

He said his mother and brother had escaped the army onslaught Sunday and were housed in camps on the Turkish side of the northern border.

"They are safe and conditions are good there," he said.

He said rumors of a mass grave, purported to be those of Syrian soldiers killed by armed militia last week and shown to the international media during a tour of the abandoned city Wednesday, were staged.

"The violence in Jisr broke out when the army split during demonstrations at funerals Saturday," he said.

"The clashes were between security forces and not civilians."

He said more than 160 tanks massed on the outskirts of the city early Sunday and razed the villages.

"They burned most of the houses," he said.

In Washington, the State Department reiterated U.S. condemnation of what it called the Assad government’s "revolting" actions.

"We’ve been struck in the last couple of weeks that Assad’s repression has only served to pour gasoline on the fire for change," spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.

She also said that the United States is stepping up contacts with Syrian dissidents inside and outside the country, but wouldn’t elaborate.








:: Article nr. 78712 sent on 17-jun-2011 17:31 ECT

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