Hundreds flee Syria amid crackdown

May 15, 2011 at 9:02 AM

DAMASCUS, Syria, May 15 (UPI) -- Hundreds of Syrians have fled into Lebanon and four anti-government protesters were killed in the Syrian town of Tal Kalakh, a human rights official said.

Before dawn Saturday, Syrian troops and tanks entered Tal Kalakh in an effort to curb the anti-government demonstrations that have raged throughout the country killing and injuring hundreds, The New York Times said. Four people were reportedly killed by sniper fire, Agenzia Giornalistica Italia reported.

Ammar al-Qurabi, the head of Syria's National Organization of Human Rights, told Asharq al-Awsat that Syrian authorities have turned the country into a "huge prison."

"There is a lot of bloodshed, especially in Deraa, Banias, and Homs. There are electricity blackouts for long periods of time, and severe water and medicine shortages ... we have also seen mass arrests, including the mass arrest of families ... the majority of detainees are being sent en mass to the stadiums (due to the lack of space in prisons and police stations)," he said.

"The Jordan-Syria border has been shut, and so the authorities have turned Syria into a huge prison, and even those who have managed to cross the border into Turkey have been placed in confinement by the Turkish authorities in order to prevent them from contacting journalists. The Syrian regime is afraid of these refugees revealing the brutal crimes and violations that have been carried out by the Syrian security apparatus," al-Qurabi said in an exclusive interview with the newspaper on Saturday.

The world's silence is helping the Syrian regime and sends a message to the authorities that they should continue the "killing and oppression," he added.

Despite the crackdown by authorities, some 84 villages and towns have participated in anti-government protests besides Damascus and Aleppo, he said.

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