Syrian army units have allegedly stormed into the city of Banias with tanks overnight, attacking Sunni districts that had defied President Bashar al Assad's autocratic rule.

Syrian army troops pull out of the southern protest hub of Daraa on May 5,
The units entered the coastal city, a majority of whose residents are Sunni Muslims, from three directions, advancing into Sunni districts but not Alawite neighbourhoods, according to a human rights campaigner.
Assad belongs to the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam, and Alawites occupy most senior positions in the army and security apparatus.
Most communications with Banias have been cut but the campaigner was able to contact some residents, he said.
Protesters in Banias on April 29
The move raises fears of a large-scale military operation in Banias, similar to the one carried out in the flashpoint southern city of Deraa.
"Residents are reporting the sound of heavy gunfire and seeing Syrian navy boats off the Banias coast.
"Sunni and mixed neighbourhoods are totally besieged now," said the rights campaigner, who did not want to be identified.
A protest leader said earlier that Syria's forces and gunmen loyal to Assad had moved on Tuesday into areas of central Banias that had been under the control of pro-democracy demonstrators for weeks.
The offensive in Banias comes a day after at least 30 people were killed across Syria in demonstrations following Friday's prayers, according to activists.
The coastal city has witnessed some of the most persistent demonstrations since an uprising erupted in the southern city of Deraa seven weeks ago demanding political freedom and an end to corruption.
The White House warned that the US and its allies will take additional steps to register its disapproval with Syria's behaviour with protesters.
US secretary of state Hillary Clinton said: "The Syrian people, like people everywhere, have the inherent right to exercise their universal freedoms, including peaceful assembly, expression, and speech.
"The Syrian government must respond to the Syrian people's call for change. It must realize that violence and intimidation will not answer their call."
Uprising hotspots in Syria
Mostly Sunni districts of Banias have been under the control of demonstrators since Assad loyalists, known as "al-shabbiha", fired at residents from speeding cars on April 10, after a large demonstration that demanded the "overthrow of the regime."
Six civilians were killed that day, according to residents and human rights campaigners.
Authorities described Banias as a "centre of Salafist terrorism" and said armed groups had killed soldiers near the city.
Civic leaders in Banias issued a statement denying the accusation and saying the authorities were trying to spread fear among the Alawites.
"I regret to say that the propaganda that Assad is spreading that the Alawites will not survive if he is toppled is receiving an audience among our Alawite neighbours, although the demonstrations have been for freedom and unity, regardless of sect," Protest leader Anas Shughri said earlier this week.