Syrian activists fear army attack on north-western city
A convoy of soldiers and military vehicles were on their way to the north-western Syrian town of Jisr al-Shaghur, activists said Tuesday, following recent violence that left more than 120 people dead there, DPA reported.
Syrians expressed fear of a major military attack on the city, where the government said up to 123 security personnel were killed in attacks by armed groups on security and government buildings on Monday.
However, opposition groups have disputed those claims, saying the dead security personnel were actually mutinous troops executed by their colleagues.
Activists said they expect "a new massacre" in the town as snipers were seen on several rooftops, they wrote on the Syrian Revolution online group.
Exiled opposition members who have helped transport injured civilians from Idlib province to Turkey during the ongoing unrest in Syria told the German Press Agency dpa that the soldiers and police officers killed were shot because they refused to fire upon unarmed civilians in the town.
Around 45 severely injured people arrived Monday in Antakya. Three of them died on way to the hospital and the bodies were sent back to Syria.
Most of those injured were young people from Jisr al-Shaghur, a source in Antakya said.
Broadcaster Al Jazeera has aired a video of a uniformed soldier. In it, the soldier says he has defected and calls on other army members to follow him, as he showed his official ID to the camera.
He said he witnessed crimes against civilians who were just trying to "protect themselves, their land and their children."
The Syrian military has been attacking Jisr al-Shaghur since last week as part of a crackdown to halt the uprising against the regime of President Bashar Assad.
More than 1,300 people have been killed nationwide since the unrest began in March, according to rights groups.
Demonstrations calling for al-Assad's ouster and an end to violent government crackdowns on protesters were held in various parts of the country late Monday.
Hundreds of people participated in a nightly demonstration in other towns in Idlib, with people carrying olive branches and chanting for Jisr al-Shaghur town.
They were chanting "Syrian people are united," the Local Coordinating Committee in Syria, an online group reported.
Al-Assad, who inherited his post after his father's death in 2000, faces rising public anger and international sanctions as the death toll grows.