BEIRUT -- Syrian troops detained hundreds more people in towns across the country Monday as they pursued their relentless crackdown against the stubbornly persistent protest movement that has swelled in recent weeks to challenge the government.
Troops backed by tanks sealed off the Damascus suburb of Moadamiya in the early hours of the morning, and residents heard gunfire as soldiers conducted house-to-house raids looking for people who had joined in recent anti-government demonstrations. Witnesses said they saw nine busloads of prisoners being taken away, said Wissam Tarif of the human rights group Insan.
There were also reports of more than 300 arrests in the central city of Homs, where three neighborhoods have been sealed off by the military since Friday, and in the Mediterranean port of Baniyas, a key protest flashpoint that was invaded by tanks early Saturday.
In Baniyas, about 400 men are still being held at the town's soccer stadium after soldiers went house by house over the weekend detaining every man between the ages of 18 and 45, according to Rami Abdelrahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which maintains contacts with a network of activists in the country.
Many houses in Baniyas are empty because their occupants have fled, and the soldiers looted belongings and smashed furniture in those homes, he said. Among those detained were several distant relatives, including a nephew, of former Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam, who resigned and relocated to Paris in 2005 after losing out in a power struggle with President Bashar Assad.
According to Insan's Mr. Tarif, the latest arrests bring to more than 10,000 the number of people who have been taken into custody since the anti-government demonstrations first erupted in March, with more than 700 people reported killed, most of them shot down while protesting.
Responding to the increasing repression, the European Union on Monday imposed an arms embargo on Syria, The Associated Press reported.
After failing to set an example to the rest of the country with its massive military assault late last month against the southern town of Daraa, the government now appears to be focusing its efforts on rounding up as many people as it can in places where protests have occurred.