Damascus: Syria`s Army on Friday launched a crackdown on "armed gangs" in the flashpoint town of Jisr al-Shughur, where authorities say 120 police and troops were massacred earlier in the week.
"Army units have started their mission to control Jisr al-Shughur and neighbouring villages and arrest the armed gangs," state television said, adding that the raid had been launched "at the request of residents”.
Rights activists said that most of the 50,000 inhabitants of Jisr al-Shughur had fled -- many to neighbouring Turkey -- when tanks and troops began midweek converging on the northwestern town and that it was largely deserted.
Syrian state television blamed "armed terrorist gangs" on Wednesday as it ran images of the "massacres" in Jisr al-Shughur which it said had resulted in the deaths of 120 police and troops.
But opposition activists say the deaths resulted from a mutiny by troops who refused orders to crack down on protesters.
Anti-government protests erupted in March and more than 1,100 civilians, including dozens of children, have been killed in the ensuing crackdown, human rights groups say.
Damascus blames the unrest on the same "armed terrorist gangs" which it says are backed by Islamists and foreign agitators.
The latest crackdown comes as President Bashar al-Assad`s regime comes under mounting international pressure over accusations of massacres of pro-democracy protesters and rights activists.