AMMAN - Syrian army tanks deployed in the eastern city of Deir al-Zor on Saturday to support forces and militiamen loyal to President Bashar Assad who came under rebel attack after three pro-democracy demonstrators were killed, opposition activists said.
"Old Russian T-54 tanks and armored vehicles have taken positions at main roundabouts. Every half an hour or so you hear gunfire by the Free Syrian Army directed at roadblocks manned by security police and 'shabbiha' (pro-Assad militia)," Abu Abdel Rahman, one of the activists, told Reuters from Deir al-Zor.
The city, 450 km (280 miles) northeast of Damascus, is situated on the Euphrates river in an oil producing province bordering Iraq, from where opposition sources say weapons are smuggled to rebels operating under the flag of the loosely organized Free Syrian Army.
Opposition sources say Free Syrian Army rebels in Deir al-Zor have been arming and organizing in the last two months as Assad's main forces were focused on trying to put down the revolt on the central city of Homs and its surrounding countryside.