BEIRUT — Syrian tanks rolled toward a tense central city mourning the deaths of dozens of protesters, reaching the outskirts late Saturday — hours after a funeral procession through streets lined with shuttered shops and uniformed security forces, witnesses said.
The government lifted its stranglehold on the Internet, which has been key to motivating people to join the 11-week uprising, but the crackdown that has left more than 1,200 people dead since March did not relent: Troops killed at least six protesters in Jisr al-Shughour in the north, according to the Local Coordination Committees, which helps organize and document the protests calling for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad.
Syria’s state-run news agency, SANA, said “armed criminal groups” attacked several police stations in Jisr al-Shughour, killing two policemen.
At least 65 protesters were killed in Hama on Friday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The tanks at the entrance to Hama caused new alarm. The city rose up against Assad’s father in 1982, only to be crushed by a three-week bombing campaign that killed thousands.
“Dozens of tanks are reaching the southern outskirts of the city,” said an activist who lives in a nearby town. “They will probably lay a siege, then storm Hama.”
The move toward Hama could mean that the army is preparing for a major operation there.
similar to recent offensives in other areas, including the southern city of Daraa, the coastal city of Baniyas and the central town of Rastan.