Syrian crackdown reaches more border towns

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The Independent Online

Syrian tanks pushed towards more towns and villages near the Turkish and Iraqi borders yesterday, expanding the Damascus regime's crackdown against the uprising as more people flee their homes.

President Bashar al-Assad appears to have abandoned all pretence of offering reform, sending tanks, helicopter gunships and only his most loyal forces into towns to crush dissent.

Anti-government activists reported tanks in the northern market town of Maaret al-Numan and in smaller villages near Jisr al-Shughour, a town stormed on Sunday by elite forces backed by helicopters.

Troops "damage homes and buildings, kill even animals, set trees and farmlands on fire", said Mohammad Hesnawi, 26, who fled Jisr al-Shughour. He accused pro-government militias known as the Shabbiha of atrocities there.

Some analysts have said Mr Assad is trying to keep the opposition from establishing a base, as happened in Libya, where the rebels took over the coastal city of Benghazi.