• 18:20
  • Wednesday ,15 June 2011

Syria calls on Jisr al-Shughour refugees to return


International News


Wednesday ,15 June 2011

Syria calls on Jisr al-Shughour refugees to return

Syria has called on the people of Jisr al-Shughour to return to the town, three days after an army attack restored government control there.

Officials said the city was returning to normal, but that army units were pursuing militants through the hills around the town.
It said it was asking the Syrian Red Crescent to co-ordinate the return of the thousands who fled to Turkey.
Meanwhile, the nearby town of Maarat al-Numan was bracing for an attack.
'Limited operation'
Thousands of Syrians have fled into Turkey in recent days to escape military operations, which the government says are aimed at tackling "armed groups".
Army units were continuing to pursue the "remnants of armed terrorist organisations" through the hills around Jisr al-Shughour, Syrian military statements said.
But the government says life in the town is gradually returning to normal, that people are starting to come back, and it urged others to return.
It said it was asking the Syrian Red Crescent to get in touch with its Turkish counterpart, to coordinate and try to facilitate a return of the refugees who have poured across the border into Turkey, estimated at more than 8,000.
The authorities say they are preparing for a "limited military operation" to restore security in Maarat al-Numan, 25 miles (40km) to the south-east of Jisr al-Shughour, straddling the main highway between Syria's two biggest cities, Damascus and Aleppo.
Tanks and troops are reported to be moving on the town, the site of large anti-regime demonstrations. Syrian state media have also reported attacks on government buildings and security headquarters.
Many of the town's population, estimated at around 100,000, are reported to have fled in anticipation of a crackdown.
Opposition activists say the army has also been deployed in two towns in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour, near the border with Iraq.
Protests against President Bashar al-Assad, who succeeded his father Hafez in 2000, began in mid-March.
Human rights groups say at least 1,300 people have been killed in the crackdown.
Syria has prevented foreign journalists, including those from the BBC, from entering the country, making it difficult to independently verify reports from there.