Thousands flee as officials hit back over killings
Published 08/06/2011 | 05:00
Syrian tanks have been deployed to a town where 120 troops were reported killed by armed gangs as officials promised a harsh response to the worst violence since the start of nationwide demonstrations.
Thousands of refugees poured across the Turkish border yesterday after Syrian television said armed opposition gangs were responsible for a "massacre" in the town of Jisr al-Shughour. It said the government would act with resolve against the groups.
However, opposition activists said there was a mutiny among security services in the town, and that forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad executed police officers who had refused to open fire on protesters. Locals said they were at the mercy of government forces.
"We don't have any weapons," one resident said.
"The soldiers were coming our way, then they were shot in the back by Syrian security elements."
The violence has triggered a diplomatic backlash, with Britain warning Mr Assad that he must change or go.
Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague said: "President Assad should reform or step aside."
Eleven Palestinians were also killed yesterday when a faction aligned to the Syrian regime opened fire on an angry crowd at a refugee camp in Damascus. (© Daily Telegraph, London)