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In the restive northern province of Idlib, where the army has conducted operations for days, activists said soldiers had reached Hamboushieh, a village a mile (2 kilometers) from where thousands of displaced Syrians were camped out on the Syrian side of the Turkish border. Heavy shooting was reported in the area, but its source was not immediately clear.

Thousands more had already fled into Turkey. The U.N. refugee agency’s spokesman, Adrian Edwards, said Tuesday that 500 to 1,000 people a day have been crossing from northern Syria into Turkey since June 7, and more than 10,000 were being sheltered by Turkish authorities in four border camps.

Assad’s speech at Damascus University on Monday was only his third public appearance since the uprising began in March. He said a national dialogue would start soon and he was forming a committee to study constitutional amendments, including one that would open the way to forming political parties other than the ruling Baath Party. He acknowledged demands for reform were legitimate, but he rehashed allegations that “saboteurs” were exploiting the movement.

Like earlier efforts, this Assad bid to appease the opposition fell flat. Prominent dissident Hassan Abdul-Azim, echoing the sentiments of others, said the Syrian president failed to detail a vision of moving “from a dictatorship into a national democratic regime with political pluralism.”

In the hours after Monday’s speech, the state-run news agency SANA said Assad was offering a “general amnesty” for crimes committed before June 20. But there were few details, and it appeared the decree applied only to prisoners with a fatal illness or who were convicted of minor smuggling or drug charges.

The International Committee of the Red Cross announced in Geneva on Tuesday the Syrian government has promised to give it and the Syrian Red Crescent more access to Syrians wounded and detained in the crackdown.

The announcement came after ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger met with Prime Minister Adel Safar and Foreign Minister Walid Moallem in Damascus. Kellenberger had urged Syria to allow the humanitarian organizations to operate unhindered to assess the needs of those affected in the unrest and military operations.