Mothers, wives, sisters and children of Syrian anti-government men who were arrested by the security forces hold banners and shout slogans during a protest demanding to release them in the town of Nawa, Darra city, Syria, on May 4, 2011. UPI | License Photo
BEIRUT, Lebanon, Sept. 14 (UPI) -- Syrian forces launched a major offensive Wednesday against opposition protests near the Turkish border, activists said.
Troops and armored vehicles rolled into the Jabal al-Zawiya region in the northwestern province of Idlib, shelling the area and cutting off communications, the Financial Times reported.
"They used heavy guns in that area, starting from this morning," Rami Abdul Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in London told the Times.
Opposition leaders said President Bashar Assad has ordered mass arrests all across the country, euronews reported.
More than 100 people have been killed this week by Syrian troops cracking down on protests, activist Rahman told the Times, and the United Nations has revised its estimate of the number of people killed to 2,600 since large-scale demonstrations began in March.
Envoys from the European Union, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands and Japan attended a ceremony Tuesday in a Damascus suburb to mark the death of prominent activist Ghiyath Mattar, who died while being detained by Syrian troops.
"In all Syria they are arresting the first and second line of activity people, that's why you don't see big demonstrations, they're all in jail or killed or hiding," Rahman said.
Mounting pressure from Turkey and other nations to stop the crackdowns has had little effect, euronews said.
"We don't believe the West and other forces in the region when they talk about democracy and human rights," said Bouthaina Shabaan, an Assad adviser.