Syria seals border with Jordan

Syria has sealed the border with Jordan and is preventing people from leaving the country.

Updated: Apr 25, 2011, 16:45 PM IST

Beirut: A Jordanian security official says Syria has sealed the border with Jordan and is preventing people from leaving the country.

The Jordanian border crossing lies close to the southern Syrian town of Daraa, where government forces were launching a sharp crackdown on protesters Monday. Some of the fiercest protests against the Syrian regime have taken place in Daraa.

The official spoke on customary condition of anonymity.

The border closure may aim to prevent Syrian demonstrators and activists from feeling to nearby Jordan.

The head of Syria`s Customs Department denied that Damascus has closed its land borders with Jordan.

Mustafa al-Bouqai told The Associated Press that crossings across the frontier are open as normal.

Earlier, the Syrian troops backed by tanks, snipers and knife-wielding security forces stormed the southern city of Daraa early Monday, killing at least five people in a clear escalation of the crackdown on a five-week uprising against President Bashar Assad`s authoritarian regime, witnesses and activists said.

The violence in Daraa, where the protest movement kicked off in mid-March, was the most intense in a series of moves to crush dissent in at least two other towns Monday. More than 300 people have been killed across the country since the anti-government demonstrations began more than a month ago.

Since then, the relentless crackdown on demonstrations has only served to invigorate protesters whose rage over the bloodshed has all but eclipsed their earlier demands for modest reforms. Now, many are seeking Assad`s downfall.

"We need international intervention. We need countries to help us," shouted a witness in Daraa who said he saw five corpses after security forces opened fire on a car. He spoke to The Associated Press by telephone.

Another witness said people were using mosque loudspeakers in Daraa to summon doctors to help the wounded as busloads of security forces and troops conducted house-to-house searches, causing panic in the streets.

"They are entering houses, they are searching the houses," he said. "They are carrying knives and guns."

All witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. Syria has banned nearly all foreign media and restricted access to trouble spots since the uprising began, making it nearly impossible to get independent assessments.

Still, the regime was clearly stepping up its efforts to crush the uprising. Although the army has been used before to quell demonstrations, their presence Monday was widespread and heavy-handed.

There had been signs that the regime was planning to launch a massive crackdown.

Last week, Assad fulfilled a key demand of the protest movement by abolishing nearly 50-year-old emergency laws that had given the regime a free hand to arrest people without cause. But he coupled the concession with a stern warning that protesters would have no excuse to hold mass protests anymore, and any further unrest would be considered sabotage.