Syria: 'Mass Grave Found In Northern Town'

A mass grave has been found near Jisr al Shughour amid violent clashes as the Syrian army took back control of the northern town, according to reports.

State television said when Syrian forces stormed through the town early on Sunday they uncovered the graves of security men killed and buried by armed groups.

It reported that their bodies bore marks of "atrocities" but it did not give more details

Heavy fighting erupted when Syrian forces and tanks reportedly stormed Jisr al Shughour, arresting several gunmen as they tried to gain hold of local infrastructure including the hospital said to have been taken over by the armed groups.

"Tanks came from the south after shelling randomly and sending volleys of machine gun fire all over the town. People are still fleeing from the north," one resident said.

Another resident, who escaped on his motorbike through the hills to Turkey, said troops burned wheat crops in three villages near Jisr al Shughour.

The town has seen large protests against Mr Assad's rule, with refugees describing a mutiny by security forces following the killings of civilians.

The fighting and discovery of the grave comes as international outrage mounted at Syria's brutal crackdown on protesters - and as thousands of refugees flee across the Turkey border.

The US has accused the Syrian government of creating a "humanitarian crisis".

British Foreign Secretary William Hague told Sky News that no military action would be taken, as has happened in Libya, despite him describing the torture and human rights breaches taking place as "unacceptable behaviour".

He said it was time the UN Security Council made a "clear statement" on Syria by proceeding with a resolution condemning the crackdown by government forces.

But he added that the prospects for a resolution were "on a knife-edge" in the face of opposition from Syria's ally Lebanon, while Russia and China have also strongly opposed the resolution.

The Cabinet Minister also complained that Iran was supporting the Syrian regime, saying Tehran was showing "extraordinary hypocrisy" after encouraging protests in other countries such as Egypt.

Jisr al Shughour has been the focus of military operations for days, following what the authorities said was the massacre of 120 policemen by "armed gangs" in the town on Monday.

Human rights activists and residents deny the allegations.

On Saturday, the Obama administration called on Syria to halt its crackdown on civilians and allow immediate access by the International Committee for the Red Cross to help refugees, detainees and the wounded.

The uprising against President Bashar al Assad has driven thousands of Syrians to flee across the border into Turkey.

"Syrian leaders have no excuse for denying humanitarian assistance by a neutral body like the ICRC," the White House said.

"If Syria's leaders fail to provide this access, they will once again be showing contempt for the dignity of the Syrian people."

A Turkish diplomat said 4,300 Syrians have crossed the border and that Turkey was prepared for a further influx, though he declined to predict how many might come.

Activists and refugees said Syrian authorities deployed helicopter gunships on several towns on Friday in the first known use of air power against the protests.

Human rights groups say Syrian security forces have killed more than 1,100 civilians since the demonstrations began three months ago.