Syrian forces killed at least three civilians and wounded scores on Sunday, residents said, in a widening military push into central Syria to quell protests against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.
Tank-backed troops fired heavy machineguns in the towns of Talbiseh and Rastan and several villages near the Homs city. They are the latest population centres to come under army assault. “Soldiers are now all over Talbiseh. They are breaking into houses and arresting people,” one resident said.
Talbiseh is 10km north of Homs, Syria’s third largest city, where tanks shelled a main neighbourhood earlier this month. Troops have been occupying the main square in Homs to prevent scenes similar to when tens of thousands demonstrated in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen to press for reform.
PROTESTERS DEFY ARMY ASSAULTS
Protests in Syria have continued despite the increasing force used to crush demonstrations that began with calls for political freedom and an end to corruption but are now urging the removal of Assad.
The president has responded to the growing protests, the biggest challenge to his rule, by intensifying a military crackdown that has killed hundreds.
The leader has lifted emergency law and promised reforms but the opponents say there has been no change in Syria where the ruling Baath Party has banned all opposition and political freedoms since 1963.