Syrian troops backed by tanks and helicopter gunships swept into another northwestern city early today, just days after laying siege to it, activists said.
Big demonstrations were expected nationwide as the Syrian people pressed on with the uprising to oust President Bashar Assad.
Syria-based rights activist Mustafa Osso said large numbers of soldiers entered Maaret al-Numan. It was not immediately clear whether there were any casualties in the operation.
Many of the residents of Maaret al-Numan, a town of 100,000 on the highway linking Damascus with Syria's largest city, Aleppo, have fled after Syrian forces swept through the northwestern province of Idlib last week near the Turkish border.
Omar Idilbi of the Local Coordination Committees, a group that documents anti-government protests, said troops are in full control of the town.
Since anti-government protests erupted in mid-March, inspired by democratic revolutions in autocrat-ruled Tunisia and Egypt, Assad has unleashed the military in region after region to crush street demonstrations. Human rights activists say more than 1,400 Syrians have been killed and 10,000 have been detained.
The operation in Maaret al-Numan coincided with opposition calls for protests today throughout the country naming it "The Day of Saleh al-Ali." Al-Ali was an Alawite leader who led an uprising against French colonial rule in the 20th century.