Security forces in Syria have said they killed 10 people and arrested nearly 500 others on Sunday in Deraa, a town that has been the focus of the uprising against the government.
Police and troops broke into houses and singled out men under the age of 40 a day after tanks shelled the town to get protesters off the streets.
Syrian state news agency SANA said that army units moved against “terrorist groups that have terrorised civilians…and killed 10 of their members and arrested 499 of them.” An army official added separately that a further five “snipers” had been killed for shooting at pedestrians.
Prominent rights campaigners were also arrested in Qamishli and Raqqa, as well as suburbs of the capital, Damascus.
Syrian protesters deny using weapons in demonstrations.
Protests began in March, with the country’s Sunni majority demanding that president Bashar al-Assad implement political reforms. The government, run mainly by the Alawite sect (a branch of Shia Islam), responded brutally. Protesters demands have since gradually shifted from calls for more political freedom and an end to corruption to outright demands for “an end to the regime”.
Human rights groups say at least 560 civilians have lost their lives in the crackdown on protests.
The violence appears to be cyclical; civilians gather to bury the dead from one protest, only to be shot at once again by security forces.
Syrian police in mass arrest of protesters