Syria troops take full control of northern town

UN: More than 10,000 Syrians have fled country; Syrian state TV claims security officers killed by "armed gangs" were buried in mass graves.

Syrian refugee camp in Turkey 521 (photo credit: REUTERS/Osman Orsal)
Syrian refugee camp in Turkey 521
(photo credit: REUTERS/Osman Orsal)
Syrian Armed Forces have taken complete control of the northern city of Jisr al-Shughur, Syrian human rights activists reported on Monday, a day after troops backed by tanks and helicopters launched a major assault on the town.
In the wake of the fighting, refugees continue to pour into Turkey, with the United Nations saying Monday that more than 10,000 Syrians have fled the country.
RELATED:Syrian forces attack town, refugees flee to TurkeyUS accuses Syria of creating humanitarian crisis
With a near total dearth of foreign reporters or international observers on the ground, it is impossible to confirm how many people have died in and around the town and whether or not the fighting could represent a decisive moment in the anti-regime uprising that broke out in March against the Assad family’s more than 40- year rule of Syria.
The Syrian government has stated that the town of 50,000 some 20 miles from the Turkish border was targeted because more than 120 security personnel were killed there last week by people whom they have referred to as “armed gangs.”
Local residents have stated that the deceased were in fact Syrian soldiers killed by the army after defecting.
Refugees told Reuters in southern Turkey on Monday that Syrian soldiers had rounded up hundreds of people in villages outside Jisr al-Shughur, focusing mainly on men between the ages of 18 and 40.
The Syrian state news agency SANA quoted a Syrian TV anchor, in reference to the government’s targeting of Jisr al-Shughur, as saying, “All that highlights is that the organized armed groups are logistically backed by Arab, regional and Western countries and that indicates the volume of the conspiracy hatched against Syria,” Mohammad added.
The anchor said she saw the bodies of 83 state security officers who were beheaded and burned or buried in mass graves.
The SANA report also stated that security forces had seized a man they said was part of a “terrorist group” that raped, massacred and horrified local residents of the town.
A previous SANA report issued on Sunday night said that Syrian army units were taking to the hills and mountains outside of town and near the Turkish border in order to pursue gunmen.
The report is consistent with a BBC dispatch on Monday that quoted Syrian military sources who said the army is planning to deploy to the town of Maarat al-Numan, southeast of Jisr al-Shughur.
Meanwhile, the number of refugees in southern Turkey continues to climb, with the UN saying that more than 10,000 Syrians have fled the country and that more than 1,200 have been killed in the fighting.
On Monday, Valerie Amos, the under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs at the UN, said, “It is important that we find out exactly what is happening in Syria so that we can provide help if required.”
Amos, who also serves as the UN’s emergency relief coordinator, expressed her hope that “the government of Syria will allow an independent assessment to be conducted.”
Hicham Hassan, Near and Middle East spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that “until now the ICRC is not present on the border between Turkey and Syria. This means that we do not have information on the number of persons who are heading towards Turkey.”
Though the organization does have a small office in Ankara, Hassan said they have no definitive estimate of the number of refugees currently in southern Turkey. He said that if requested, they are ready to assist, but that such a request has not been made, as the Turkish government has taken the reigns in dealing with the refugee crisis.