Tue, May 17, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Syrian shelling kills eight: activist

CRACKDOWN:Limited information is coming out of Tel Kelakh because Syrian troops have isolated the city and cut telephone lines after sweeping the town on Saturday

AP and Reuters, TRIPOLI, LEBANON and AMMAN

A human rights activist says eight people have been killed because of violence in a Syrian border town where witnesses reported hearing crackling gunfire and explosions.

Mustafa Osso said yesterday that six people were killed in Tel Kelakh on Sunday and two others — including a soldier — died in Lebanon after crossing the border for treatment.

He said military operations were continuing in the town yesterday.

The town, just a few kilometers from Lebanon’s northern border, is the latest focus of an intensified crackdown by Syrian troops and tanks, sent to quell demonstrations against the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Few reports were leaking out of Tel Kelakh because Syrian troops have isolated the city and cut telephone lines.

The shelling of the town concentrated on al-Burj, Ghalioun, Souk and Mahata neighborhood, the Local Coordination Committees said in a statement.

Authorities in Lebanon tightened security after hundreds fled from Syrian troops deployed to crush protests on Saturday, when activists said three Tel Kelakh residents were killed in shooting. A Lebanese security official said on Sunday border patrols had -increased “to prevent illegal entry.”

A resident who had fled the town told Lebanese television that the knife wielding Assad loyalists, known as the shabbiha accompanied the army and security police in their sweep on neighborhoods in the town.

International media is largely banned from Syria, making it difficult to verify independent, or official accounts.

The Local Coordination Committees rejected on Sunday what the information minister had termed as a “national dialogue” proposed by Assad, saying the -authorities must stop shooting of protesters first.

“The peaceful demonstrations and civic disobedience will continue ... It is morally and politically unacceptable to have national dialogue before stopping all forms of killings and violence against peaceful protesters ... lifting the siege on cities and releasing all political prisoners,” the group said in in a statement sent to reporters.

A woman who fled the porous border to the Lebanese side told al-Jazeera television: “The authorities say they want national dialogue and they conduct it with tanks.”

Tel Kelakh resident Mohammad al-Dandashi said in a telephone call he had counted the sound of 85 tank shells fired since Saturday.

“They seem to be random and not targeting a particular neighborhood,” he said as the sound of heavy gunfire could be heard in the background.

“They are punishing us for demonstrating against the regime,” he said, adding that nearly 20 soldiers could be seen on the main hospital’s roof.

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