Armoured Syrian forces killed one person and arrested dozens in raids on a tribal region near the border with Iraq on Wednesday, activists said, in their latest effort to subdue dissent against President Bashar al-Assad.
A force of 20-30 tanks and other armoured vehicles entered neighbourhoods in the town of Mayadeen and the nearby village of Alburhama in the eastern province of Deir al-Zor, before withdrawing to the outskirts, they said.
"They are mainly hit-and-run raids. The military is trying to avoid reprisals from the population, which is heavily armed. So they go in quickly to arrest people, sabotaging houses of wanted activists they cannot find," a local activist told Reuters by telephone.
The authorities have in the past allowed eastern Arab tribes to arm themselves, as a counterweight to Syria's nearby Kurdish minority and partly to bolster support for Assad and his father, the late President Bashar al-Assad, who are from Syria's minority Alawite sect.
But the five-month uprising for political freedoms has disrupted old agreements that have been key to 41-years of Assad family rule of Syria. Deir al-Zor, the provincial capital, saw some of the largest protests, prompting Assad to send tanks into the city earlier this month.
Residents say that assault on Deir al-Zor killed at least 40 civilians and that hundreds of people have been arrested in the last three weeks in the province, with one activists' group putting the number as high as 3,000.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said this week more than 2,200 people have been killed in Assad's crackdown, with his forces continuing "to employ excessive force, including heavy artillery" to quell peaceful demonstrations.
Assad says he is facing a foreign conspiracy to divide Syria, with the authorities blaming "armed terrorist groups" for the bloodshed. They say that 500 police and military personnel have been also killed.
Eastern Syria, including Kurdish northeast, produces all of Syria's 380,000 barrels of daily crude oil output.
ReutersLast Mod: 24 Ağustos 2011, 16:39