Syrian tanks stormed a town 30 km (20 miles) from the Turkish border on Tuesday and expanded an assault on a key eastern city, witnesses said, even as a Turkish envoy arrived in Damascus to urge President Bashar al-Assad to halt the violence.
Armoured vehicles entered the town of Binnish at dawn, the witnesses said. An armoured column also pushed into the centre of Deir al-Zor on the third day of an offensive in the capital of an oil-producing province bordering Iraq's Sunni heartland.
Asked why Binnish was stormed, a resident who had fled the town said: "The whole town has been joining in night rallies after Ramadan prayers."
In Deir al-Zor, residents said tanks pushed south toward the centre after occupying the Hawiqa neighbourhood, with forces storming houses and arresting occupants.
"They are now about one kilometre from downtown. When they finish with one district, they move to another," said the resident, who gave his name only as Iyad.
Syria has faced nearly five months of protests against Assad's 11-year rule, inspired by Arab revolts which overthrew leaders in Egypt and Tunisia earlier this year.
Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu arrived in Syria on Tuesday to give Assad a robust message about the need to halt the bloodshed, which Syrian authorities blame on armed gangs.