Syrian troops push north

SYRIAN troops using tanks and helicopters pushed toward a northern town after arresting hundreds of people in villages near Jisr al-Shughour, residents said, as more refugees fled to Turkey.

More than 8,500 Syrians have sought shelter across the border to escape President Bashar al-Assad’s latest military drive to crush protests demanding political change in a country ruled by the Assad dynasty for the last 41 years.

Thousands more people are living rough just inside Syria.

Most of the refugees come from Jisr al-Shughour, where authorities say 120 security personnel were killed by gunmen 10 days ago. Some activists say deserting troops and residents clashed with security forces.

The army retook the rebellious town on Sunday and appeared to be moving toward the town of Maarat al-Numaan, which has also been the scene of protests.

The government says the three-month-old protests are part of a conspiracy backed by foreign powers to sow sectarian strife.

Turkey has set up four refugee camps just inside its borders and said the number of refugees had reached 8,538, more than half of them children.

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