Syrian troops and tanks surrounded Jisr al-Shughour and prepared to move in today—not that anybody was home. The town was all but deserted, with thousands of residents fleeing across the nearby border into Turkey, according to an AP reporter given rare permission to travel with the army. The regime allowed journalists on the trip in an attempt to counteract the negative press its brutal crackdown has generated. State media reported last week that "gangs" killed 120 Syrian officers in the town, but residents say Syrian police actually turned on each other while soldiers removed their uniforms rather than fire on protesters.
Reporters were taken to speak with residents of a nearby village who said appropriately regime-friendly things. “Now we feel safe,” said one 50-year-old woman, as she and her neighbors brought food and juice to the troops. But the few residents still inside Jisr al-Shughour are apparently less sanguine about the army’s arrival; one man reached by telephone said residents are piling up tires that they’ll set on fire to try to halt the army’s advance. (Read more Syria stories.)