Opposition supporters in Zabadani, Syria on Sunday, January 15, 2012.
BEIRUT (AP) -- Syrian troops have launched a new assault on a region in the north that's been one of the centers of the uprising against President Bashar Assad's rule.
An Associated Press team in Idlib reports seeing families fleeing the town while dozens of tanks shelled neighborhoods from dawn until noon.
They also report street skirmishes between armed opposition fighters and regime troops.
Activists say army reinforcements poured into the town this week, and dozens of people have been killed.
The moves are raising concerns that the Assad regime is planning an all-out offensive in Idlib like the bloody siege last month that captured the Baba Amr neighborhood in Homs (hohms).
While the fighting raged today, U.N. envoy Kofi Annan met with Assad in Damascus.
But his mission to halt the fighting and arrange talks between the government and the opposition is already running into dead ends.
Syria's state news agency says Assad told Annan that "as long as there are armed terrorist groups that work to spread anarchy and destabilize the country" the effort will go nowhere.
The opposition is also rejecting dialogue.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senior U.S. intelligence officials say Syrian leader Bashar Assad commands a formidable army that is unlikely to turn on him and an inner circle that is staying loyal.
While officials won't comment on a timeline to the regime's possible collapse, their sober assessment suggests continuing bloodshed lasting several months, if not longer.
They spoke on condition of anonymity to describe recent analysis.
The U.N. says more than 7,500 people have been killed in the yearlong crackdown.
New satellite imagery shows the Syrian army even shelled mosques and schools.
The officials say a worsening economy, with food prices doubling and jobs disappearing, could ultimately drive the regime from power.
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