Syria Replaces Defense Minister, Crackdown Intensifies

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Syria replaced its defense minister Monday with the army chief of staff.

The shake-up in the government came as the Syrian military unleashed a brutal crackdown on a five-month-old uprising against President Bashar Assad.

At least 42 people were killed over the weekend as Syria's crackdown on anti-government protestors intensifies.

The latest violence happened in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour.

"We heard very loud explosions, and now there's intermittent gunfire," an activist said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. He said people were too terrified to take the wounded to government hospitals, instead treating them at home or in makeshift hospitals.

The Local Coordinating Committees, which help organize the protests and track the uprising, said machine fire and artillery blasts resumed early Monday in Deir el-Zour. Syrian troops also stormed Maaret al-Numan in the northern province of Idlib at dawn, activists said.

"Forces entered the city from its eastern side and they are preventing the residents from entering or leaving the city," the LCC said in a statement.

More than 300 people have been killed in the past week, the bloodiest since the uprising began. The regime's crackdown has left more than 1,700 dead.

The mostly peaceful, unarmed protesters are demanding political reforms and an end to Assad's rule.

The international community has sharply condemned Syria's crackdown -- imposing sanctions and demanding an immediate end to the attacks.

Syria's Arab neighbors have also joined in the chorus of nations criticizing the violence against the protestors.

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