Syrian security forces, backed by troops, continued crackdown on demonstrations Tuesday, opening fire on thousands who gathered in Latakia, Deir Ezzor, Deraa, Damascus and other cities to renew demands President Bashar Al Assad step down.
President Assad’s forces raked Latakia with machinegun fire and pressed a crackdown in the port city that has already killed dozens and sent more Palestinian refugees fleeing, activists and residents said.
"The heavy machinegun fire and bullets were intense in areas of Latakia, Ramel, Masbah Al Shaab and Ain Tamra for more than three hours," said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
It also quoted residents as saying they saw 20 military vehicles and troop carriers gathering on Al Thawra street, north of Latakia's city center, in what could be the prelude to a new operation.
Around 120 soldiers also raided the Sqanturi area and made dozens of arrests, while security forces pursued operations in other districts.
Since Sunday, 30 civilians have been killed in Latakia in an offensive that according to rights activists saw the use of gunboats by Syrian security forces for the first time since the start of pro-democracy revolts in mid-March.
In the flashpoint city of Deir Ezzor security forces heavily fired on night protests, hours after army troops had pulled out.
According to activists, the operation in Deir Ezzor, the largest city in eastern city, cost 30 lives.
"The army conducted a quick and sensible operation in Deir Ezzor in order to restore stability and calm at the request of residents," who had complained of armed groups, an army officer told reporters.
He said gunmen had encircled the city and erected checkpoints.
President Assad has ignored all international and regional calls to end violence against peaceful protesters.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other governments should now call on Syrian President Bashar Al Assad to step down, but declined to make that call herself.
"It's not going to be any news if the United States says Assad needs to go," Clinton said, suggesting the world's reaction to such a move would be, "Ok, fine. What's next?"
"If Turkey says it, if King Abdullah (of Saudi Arabia) says it, if other people say it, there's no way the Assad regime can ignore it," Clinton said during an appearance with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at the US National Defense University.
US officials said privately last week that the United States was preparing to explicitly urge Assad to quit power over his regime's deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protests, but Mrs. Clinton made clear Washington was now not ready to do so.
Indicating the Turks, Saudis and other regional powers have more influence on Syria, Clinton said "we don't have very much going on with Syria because of the long history of challenging problems with that."
When pressed on whether President Barack Obama's administration should demand that President Assad step down, Mrs. Clinton replied: "I am a big believer in results over rhetoric."
She said the US diplomatic approach toward Syria amounts to "smart power," noting such an approach is an alternative to using brute force and unilateralism.