Syrian tank assaults kill more than 60 in two cities

Troops attack in eastern city of Deir al-Zor and near Homs as Arab League criticizes violence; Assad says he's protecting against terrorists.

Tank sits in Hama, Syria_311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Tank sits in Hama, Syria_311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
AMMAN - Syrian troops killed at least 50 people in a tank assault on the eastern city of Deir al-Zor on Sunday, activists said, despite a direct UN appeal to President Bashar Assad to stop using military force against civilians.
The assault on Deir al-Zor, capital of an oil-producing province, began one week after Assad sent the army to seize control of Hama, focal point of nearly five months of protest against his autocratic rule.
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In a separate tank-led attack on villages in the Houla plain north of the central city of Homs, security forces killed at least 13 people, activists said.
"The numbers of casualties are escalating by the hour," activist Suhair al-Atassi, a member of the Syrian Revolution Coordinating Committee, said by telephone from Damascus.
The Arab League, in a rare response to the escalating bloodshed in Syria, joined the international wave of criticism on Sunday, calling on authorities to stop acts of violence against protesters, the Qatar News Agency reported.
Assad defended the army campaign against what Damascus says is an armed insurrection. "Dealing with outlaws and convicts who stage highway robbery and seal off cities and terrorise the population is a national duty," state news agency SANA quoted him as telling Lebanese Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour.
An Assad adviser said neighbouring Turkey, which condemned the attack on Hama as an atrocity, should not meddle in Syrian affairs and warned Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu he would get a frosty reception when he visits Damascus on Tuesday.
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Click for full Jpost coverage of turmoil in the Middle East