BEIRUT — The death toll in a government security crackdown in two northern Syrian towns rose to 35 yesterday, human rights groups said. Exiled opposition figures said any dialogue now with President Bashar Assad’s regime would be a joke.
Rami Abdul-Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the deaths in the town of Jisr al-Shughour and nearby Khan Sheikhoun included six policemen. The operation is part of a crackdown that began Saturday.
Human rights groups say more than 1,200 people have died in the brutal crackdown against antigovernment protesters since March. Assad has coupled military operations with symbolic overtures toward the opposition, including an amnesty for many prisoners and a call for national dialogue.
The activists’ reports could not be confirmed independently. The Syrian government has severely restricted the media and expelled foreign reporters, making it nearly impossible to independently verify events there.
Attempts to reach residents of Jisr al-Shughour were unsuccessful, indicating that communications have been cut.
The state-run news agency SANA said yesterday that four policemen were killed and more than 20 wounded in the area when “armed terrorist’’ groups attacked government buildings and police stations.
At a meeting of Syria’s mostly expatriate opposition in Brussels yesterday, leaders said talks with the regime would be “a joke’’ as long as the violent crackdown continues. Obeda Nahas, one of the representatives chosen at a two-day Conference of the National Coalition to Support the Syrian Revolution, said any opposition figures who talked to the regime now would not be taken seriously by the Syrian people.