Syrian troops and armored vehicles have entered two more towns in the northwest of the country as the military continues operations against centers of protests opposing President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
State television has shown pictures of troops moving into the town of Maarat al-Numan, in the northwestern Idlib province. Troops were also reported in the nearby town of Khan Sheikhoun.
There were no immediate information of casualties.
Nearly 10,000 Syrians have fled across the border into Turkey since the military launched their operation in Idlib province last week.
Also today, antigovernment protests were staged in several cities and towns across Syria after the weekly Muslim prayers.
Activists said at least eight civilians were killed when security forces opening fire at protesters in Homs, Banias, Deir el-Zour, Dael, and the Damascus suburb of Douma.
Assad's Cousin Quits Business Activities
Meanwhile, with Syrian troops and armored vehicles continuing their campaign against anti-regime protesters in the north of the country, Syrian tycoon Rami Makhlouf, a cousin of President Bashar al-Assad, has announced he is quitting his involvement in business.
The move is seen as an apparent concession to demonstrators who have been calling for an end to corruption and abuses under the Assad regime.
The announcement came ahead of Friday prayers. Previous Fridays have frequently seen the biggest protests and the heaviest bloodshed during Syria's three-month-old unrest.
Said to be Syria's most powerful businessman, Makhlouf is reported to control Syria's largest mobile-phone operator and other lucrative businesses. State-run Syrian media said he is quitting his businesses and will now devote his wealth to charity and development projects.
The United States and European Union have both imposed sanctions on Makhlouf.
The announcement came as reports said Syrian security forces were gathering around two northern towns, Khan Sheikhun and Maarat al-Numan, in an apparent continuation of an operation against opposition protests.
compiled from agency reports