AMMAN - Syrian troops backed by tanks raided houses looking for activists in two main districts of the city of Hama overnight, residents said on Wednesday.

Syrian authorities said the army had withdrawn from Hama this month after a 10-day assault to crush pro-democracy protests.

"Several light tanks and tens of small and big buses parked at Al-Hadid bridge at the eastern entrance of Hama. "Hundreds of troops then went on foot into al-Qusour and Hamdiya neighborhoods. The sound of gunfire is being heard," Abdelrahman, a local activist, told Reuters by phone.

Another resident said Toyota pick-up trucks with machine guns mounted on their flatbeds and buses full of troops also assembled overnight near al-Dahiriya district at the northern entrance of Hama, 205 km (130 miles) north of the capital Damascus and scene of a 1982 massacre by the military.

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