A defiant Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has vowed to continue a deadly crackdown against opposition demonstrators that he has described as "outlaws."
Assad is quoted by state-run media in Syria as saying that predawn raids on two opposition-held cities on August 7 were part of the regime's "duty to protect the security and lives of its citizens."
Rights activists say Syrian troops killed at least 47 people earlier in the day when the army advanced with about 200 tanks into the eastern city of Deir el-Zour and the central city of Homs.
Syrian forces also were tightening their siege on the city of Hama -- a nest of dissent in the nearly five-month-old uprising against Assad's regime.
Precise casualty figures are elusive because of a media lockout that Assad's government has imposed on wide swaths of the country.
The pre-dawn raids were launched despite a demand by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for Assad to stop deploying military troops against civilians in Syria.
Ban expressed his "strong concern and that of the international community at the mounting violence and death toll in Syria over the past days."
Turkey has repeatedly warned of the dangers
of the current crackdown in Syria and said it planned to send an envoy to Damascus in an effort to discuss the situation with the Assad government.
Explosions and shelling could be heard in the area of Deir el-Zour after military forces launched the predawn raids into the city from four sides, taking control of eight neighborhoods.
At least one child was among the deaths reported during a military operation in the area of al-Hula near the restive central city of Homs.
compiled from agency reports