President Bashar al-Assad, facing the gravest crisis in his 11-year rule, deployed the army in Syria's main port of Latakia for the first time after nearly two weeks of protests spread across the country.
Dozens have died in pro-democracy demonstrations in the southern city of Deraa and nearby Sanamein as well as Latakia in the northwest, Damascus and other towns over the last week.
State television showed deserted streets in Latakia littered with rubble and broken glass and burned-out vehicles. Damascus cited attempts by 'armed groups', possibly backed by foreign powers, to stir sectarian conflict across the country.
And Reuters reports in another news article that so-called security forces have opened fire on protesters in Deraa:
Syrian forces opened fire to disperse hundreds of protesters in Deraa calling for an end to emergency laws on Monday, but demonstrators regrouped despite a heavy troop deployment, a witness said.
At least 61 people have been killed in 10 days of anti-government protests in the southern city, posing the most serious challenge to President Bashar al-Assad's rule.