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Syria Expands Military Siege Causing International Backlash

In this citizen journalism image made on a mobile phone, a Syrian boy carries a board that reads:" stop the killing," during a protest in Daraya, southwest of Damascus, Syria, April 25, 2011

Hundreds of people were arrested in Syria as the government continued its crackdown on an anti-government protest movement on Tuesday. Witnesses say that Syrian army troops are also tightening their grip on the city of Daraa, continuing a military assault that began Monday.

Witnesses say that sporadic gunfire crackled in the flashpoint town of Daraa Tuesday, and that life remained paralyzed in most of the city. Electricity was cut, as well as telephone landlines and mobile phones. Grocery stores, bakeries and other shops were closed.

Witness reports say snipers and special forces' sharpshooters fired at random and prevented residents from leaving their houses. Funerals of those killed the previous day could not be held due to the government crackdown.

Residents of Jassem in southern Syria marched in the streets to protest the army attack on Daraa. Opposition websites spoke of protests in several other towns, but it the reports could not be independently verified.

Syrian government television slammed foreign media, claiming it was "inciting revolution and violence." It also said that "criminal, armed gangs [were] wreaking destruction" across the country.

Syrian state television also broadcast funerals of 15 soldiers and policeman it claimed were killed by "armed terrorists."

At least a dozen people from several Syrian towns and cities were videotaped saying that the government must restore order and defeat terrorists.

But at a joint press conference in Rome, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and French President Nicolas Sarkozy denounced the Syrian crackdown.

Sarkozy said that both he and Berlusconi believe the situation in Syria has become unacceptable and that Syria cannot use brutality or deploy the army against demonstrators seeking freedom and democracy.

United Nations officials also condemned the Syrian military intervention. The Security Council is due to meet later in the day to discuss the situation in Syria.