AMMAN - At least 15 Syrian tanks pushed overnight into a rural area near the Lebanese border, where security forces have concentrated their latest crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrations, human rights activists said.
The activists, who were in contact with residents, said the tanks deployed around Arida, near the Jisr al-Qomar border crossing point with northern Lebanon. Witnesses on the Lebanese side of the border told Reuters they could hear the sound of gunfire throughout the night.
Activists said Syrian troops and gunmen had entered the border town of Tel Kelakh on Saturday after protests erupted against President Bashar al-Assad's autocratic rule, prompting dozens of families to flee into Lebanon.
An activists' protest group said at least seven Syrian civilians were killed on Sunday when troops shelled the town and sniper fire killed another civilian on Monday, raising the death toll in the army's assault since Saturday to 12.
The official Syrian state news agency said five soldiers were killed in confrontations with armed groups in Tel Kalakh.
One resident said there was intermittent shelling and machine gun fire with heavy bursts on Tel Kelakh on Monday, but the army appeared not to have advanced beyond the town's outskirts.
"Tel Kelakh is a ghost town. There are no doctors. Pharmacies are shut. Snipers are on the roof of the main hospital. Phones, water and electricity are cut," Mohammad al-Dandashi told Reuters from the town through satellite phone.
A few families from another border village called Hilat streamed into Lebanon on Monday as did two wounded civilians from Tel Kelakh who was seeking medical care in Lebanon, some family members said. (Reuters)