BEIRUT -- Gunfire erupted across a key port city in northern Syria on Sunday hours after the army sealed it off, deploying tanks, setting up checkpoints and cutting communications to area, human rights activists said.
Activist Mazen Darwish said security forces appeared to be cracking down on protesters who were gathering in Banias on Sunday. He said at least four tanks were deployed in the city, apparently to protect the oil refinery.
Darwish cited residents in the area, but the accounts could not be independently confirmed. The government has placed severe restrictions on news coverage and many journalists have been detained and expelled from the country.
Darwish and two other activists quoted residents who had managed to flee the city on Sunday.
"There are demonstrations throughout the city and people are chanting against the regime," said Haitham al-Maleh, an 80-year-old lawyer and longtime rights activist who spent years as a political prisoner in Syria. [...]
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