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The military assault on Sunday and Monday also targeted the eastern city of Deir el-Zour. Abdul-Rahman said there was intense shooting in the city overnight and that residents in nearby towns reported a convoy, including 80 tanks, on its way to Deir el-Zour.

He said troops backed by tanks also entered the town of Houla in central province of Homs on Monday.

Hama, the focus of the crackdown, has a history of defiance.

In 1982, Assad’s father, Hafez Assad, ordered the military to quell a rebellion by Syrian members of the conservative Muslim Brotherhood movement. The city was sealed off and bombs dropped from above smashed swaths of the city and killed between 10,000 and 25,000 people, rights groups say.

The real number may never be known. Then, as now, reporters were not allowed to reach the area.

AP writers Bassem Mroue in Beirut, Matt Lee in Washington and Edith M. Lederer in New York contributed to this report.