Dubai Syrian forces are pressing a military offensive with machineguns and mine-laying near the border with Turkey in an attempt to block a flow of refugees and supplies for insurgents, rebel activists, a Turkish official at the frontier said Friday.

Syrian army activity comes days before a ceasefire deadline agreed by President Bashar Al Assad. The flow of refugees to Turkish camps nearby has crossed 3,000 in two days as violence in bordering Idlib province worsened.

Alarming casualties

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Syrians demanding an end to the regime took to the streets Friday under fire from government forces, who continued to pound rebel cities into submission. At least 27 were killed in violence yesterday. The carnage raged a day after 77 people were killed and international envoy Kofi Annan spoke of "alarming" casualties despite the regime's pledge to withdraw forces from protest hubs.

On its Facebook page, the Syrian Revolution 2011 activist group had urged Syrians to demonstrate in favour of arming anti-regime rebels. The Local Coordination Committees group said security forces shot at demonstrators in Douma north of Damascus, in the central city of Hama and in Idlib. Demonstrations were also reported in southern Daraa province, cradle of the revolt, the LCC said. Others were staged at Qamishli in the northern Kurdish region and at Deir Al Zor in the east, as well as in Idlib, said Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Britain-based Observatory also reported fierce battles in the villages of Al Tiba, Al Qabu and Shniyeh in Homs province. It said the clashes erupted after loyalist militias opened fire on a group of women, killing two and wounding four.

Meanwhile, Ankara urged the UN and international community to reinforce efforts to aid Syrian refugees after 3,000 people poured across the border in less than two days, taking the number in Turkey past 24,000.