Syrian army moves into village along Turkish border

Syrian tanks on Saturday rolled into a village on the border with Turkey where workers are scrambling to erect a huge tent city for fear of a new exodus of refugees from the crackdown.

As families across Syria mourned 18 protesters gunned down by security forces on Friday, activists said troops backed by tanks rumbled into Al-Najia village near Jisr al-Shughur, a town which the army seized on June 12 after repeated protests.

The operation came just days after the army moved into Khirbet al-Jouz, another village near the border.

"The army backed by tanks and troop carriers entered Al-Najia as part of its deployment in the province of Edleb," the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman, told AFP in Nicosia.

Al-Najia lies on the road linking the northwestern city of Latakia to Jisr al-Shughur -- home to 50,000 people, most of whom fled after the army seized the town, many fleeing across the border to Turkey.

On Friday, the state-run SANA news agency reported that the army had "completed" its deployment in and around Jisr al-Shughur and quoted a military official urging villagers who had fled their homes to return.

The army's sweep through protest centers in the northwest has sent nearly 12,000 Syrians fleeing to safety in neighboring Turkey, which is scrambling to build a giant tent city on its border with Syria.

More than 200 tents have already been erected in the camp while another 1,000 are due to be ready in a week in the village of Apaydin, in Hatay province on the border, with a capacity to accommodate up to 15,000 people, village headman Omer Cagatay said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 1,332 civilians have been killed in the government's crackdown and that 341 security force personnel had also lost their lives.

-AFP/NOW Lebanon

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