The Syrian army is said to have deployed air power against protesters for the first time but there are also fresh reports of splits within the ranks, with soldiers refusing to fire on crowds.
Witnesses from Maarat al-Numaan, near the Turkish border, say five helicopter gunships opened fire on a gathering of tens of thousands demanding an end to President Bashir al-Assad’s rule.
In neighbouring Jisr al-Shughour the streets were largely deserted. The military build up on the outskirts kept many inhabitants indoors. More than 3,000 have fled across the border.
Rallies were reported across the country with dozens of people killed. However in Hama a huge crowd say they marched unchallenged.
The tales of violence and killings recounted by those who make it to Turkey has prompted Ankara to join international condemnation of the crackdown ordered by Damascus, describing it as “inhumane”.
However, Syria’s position in the Middle East means a Libya-style intervention is unlikely.
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