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Syrians Fear All-Out Assault Near Turkish Border


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Fox News:

BEIRUT – A border region with a history of hostility toward the Syrian regime is posing the biggest challenge yet for President Bashar Assad's struggle to crush the revolt against his family's 40-year-rule.

Analysts say Assad will do anything to restore control in the restive northern area bordering Turkey, where mutinous forces are giving a largely peaceful revolt new strength -- and firepower.

On Saturday, thousands of elite troops and tanks believed to be led by his brother sealed off the entrances to the mostly deserted town of Jisr al-Shughour, with soldiers loyal to the regime coming under sniper fire as they approached.

Mutinous Syrian soldiers and police officers remained behind to fight against an expected all-out government assault, a resident said, and unarmed demonstrators were ready to fight "with their hands" in the town just 12 miles from the Turkish border.

While the Syrian uprising is still far from an all out Libya-style insurgency, the mutiny in Jisr al-Shughour raises concerns the 12-week revolt is taking on a new dimension. Jisr al-Shughour's history of Sunni militancy and its proximity to Turkey make it a crucial proving ground for the regime.

Syrian troops backed by tanks, helicopters and heavy armor have been in the area for several days; it was not clear why the army was delaying an assault. In the meantime, a captain and 15 soldiers defected and joined the protesters on Saturday, according to the Local Coordination Committees, which documents Syrian anti-government protests. The report could not be independently confirmed.

If the army turns on Assad, he's in trouble.
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