Syrian troops enter towns near border with Lebanon

Syrian troops enter towns near border with Lebanon

The sounds of gunfire echoed along Syria's border with Lebanon on Sunday as Syrian troops entered towns close to the dividing line claiming to look for terrorist groups, dpa reported.

Soldiers were on the outskirts of the town of Kseir, which is located 15 kilometers from the border with Lebanon, Rami Abdul Rahman, who heads the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told the German Press Agency dpa.

A Lebanese security source said that many families - mainly groups of women and children - fled Kseir overnight Saturday and through Sunday morning to Lebanon.

Nearly 12,000 Syrians have crossed into Turkey to escape the violence.

Al-Watan, a pro-government Syrian newspaper, said the military sweep was aimed at "tracking down armed groups" who have committed "horrible crimes" against civilians.

The government of President Bashar al-Assad blames "armed groups" and "infiltrators" for the unrest that began in March.

At least 16 people were killed in several Syrian cities on Friday after security forces fired live ammunition at anti-government protesters.

The demonstrations continued Saturday as troops prevented the families of those killed in the protests from holding funeral processions in the Damascus suburb of Kiswa.

Human rights groups say more than 1,300 civilians have been killed and 10,000 detained since protests demanding greater freedoms and al-Assad's ouster started. Hundreds of security personnel have also died in the uprising.

About 100 independent Syrian opposition figures are to meet in Damascus Monday to discuss ways to end the crisis, said opposition writer and journalist Louai Hussein.

The activists "are trying to formulate a kind of plan to end the current crisis in the country and reach a compromise with the regime of al-Assad," one of them told dpa.

"There is a lack of trust between the activists and the regime, maybe during this meeting they can raise their case and the regime would listen."

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