Search This Blog

Friday, March 25, 2011

Dozens feared dead as Syria violence swells

Tens of thousands take to the streets in widespread civil unrest

DAMASCUS, Syria — Troops fired on protesters in several Syrian cities Friday and pro- and anti-government crowds clashed on the tense streets of the capital in the most widespread unrest since protests began in recent weeks, witnesses said.

Residents and activists reported fatalities, with unconfirmed reports of as many as 30 slain throughout Syria, according to Al Jazeera television. Accounts include:

•In the town of Sanamein, Syrian security forces killed at least 20 people, a witness told Al Jazeera television Friday.

•In the restive southern city of Daraa, soldiers shot at crowds after they set fires around a bronze statue of the country's late president, Hafez Assad, a resident told The Associated Press.
•In Latakia, an activist told the AP that witnesses had reported one demonstrator shot dead by security forces in the coastal city, and another slain in the central city of Homs. He said several people had been hospitalized in Latakia.

•In the Mouadamieh district of Damascus, the Syrian capital, three people were killed after a crowd confronted a procession of cars driven by supporters of President Bashsar al-Assad, residents said.

The violence came as tens of thousands of Syrians took to the streets in the most widespread civil unrest in years, defying crowds of government backers and baton-wielding security forces to shout their support of the uprising in Daraa, according to witnesses, activists and footage posted online.

The United States called on the Syrian government to stop the violence against marchers, White House spokesman Jay Carney said. "We strongly condemn the Syrian government's attempts to repress and intimidate demonstrators,'' he told reporters on Friday.

Thousands flooded Daraa's central Assad Square, many from nearby villages, chanting "Freedom! Freedom!" and waving Syrian flags and olive branches, a resident told The Associated Press by telephone. The city lies near the Jordanian border.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, he claimed that more than 50,000 people were shouting slogans decrying presidential adviser Buthaina Shaaban, who promised Thursday that the government would consider a series of reforms in response to a week of unrest in Daraa.

A human rights activist, quoting witnesses, said thousands of people gathered in the town of Douma outside the capital, Damascus, pledging support for the people of Daraa. The activists asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution.

Security forces dispersed the crowd by beating them with batons, an activist said, asking that his name not be published for fear of reprisals by the government.

The capital, Damascus, was tense, with convoys of young Syrians roaming the streets in their cars, honking incessantly and waving out pictures of the president and Syrian flags. The convoys briefly blocked streets in some areas.

Outside Damascus' famed Ummayad Mosque, scores of people gathered, chanting pro-Assad slogans when a small group of people began shouting opposing slogans in support of the Daraa protesters.

Police dispersed the demonstrators peacefully.

'We sacrifice for you'
Also in Damascus, about 200 people demonstrated after the Friday prayers at the Thawra Bridge, near the central Marjeh Square, chanting "our souls, our blood we sacrifice for you Daraa," and "freedom, freedom." They were chased by security forces who beat them some of them with batons and detained others, an activist said on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisals.

In the northern city of Aleppo, hundreds of worshippers came out of mosques shouting "with our lives, our souls, we sacrifice for you Bashar" and "Only God, Syria and Bashar!" referring to the president.

Residents in another northern city, Homs, said hundreds of people demonstrated in support of Daraa and demanded reforms.

The activist said that in the coastal city of Latakia, more than 1,000 people marched in the streets after Friday prayers. In the northern city of Raqqa, scores marched and several people were detained, he said.

And in the western city of Zabadani, near the border with Lebanon, several people were detained after protesting, he said.

Journalists who tried to enter Daraa's Old City -- where most of the violence took place -- were escorted out of town Friday by two security vehicles.

"As you can see, everything is back to normal and it is over," an army major, standing in front of the ruling Baath party head office in Daraa, told journalists before they were led out of the city.

'Will not forget the martyrs'
Rattled by the unrest, the Syrian government Thursday pledged to consider lifting some of the Mideast's most repressive laws in an attempt to stop the weeklong uprising from spreading and threatening its nearly 50-year rule.

But the promises were immediately rejected by many activists who called for demonstrations around the country on Friday in response to a crackdown that protesters say killed dozens of anti-government marchers in Daraa.

"We will not forget the martyrs of Daraa," a resident told The Associated Press by telephone. "If they think this will silence us they are wrong."

Assad, a close ally of Iran and its regional proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas, has promised increased freedoms for discontented citizens and increased pay and benefits for state workers -- a familiar package of incentives offered by other nervous Arab regimes in recent weeks.

Shaaban, the presidential adviser, also said the Baath party would study ending a state of emergency that it put in place after taking power in 1963.

The emergency laws, which have been a feature of many Arab countries, allow people to be arrested without warrants and imprisoned without trial. Human rights groups say violations of other basic liberties are rife in Syria, with torture and abuse common in police stations, detention centers and prisons, and dissenters regularly imprisoned for years without due process.

The death toll from the weeklong crackdown was unclear and could not be independently confirmed. Shaaban says 34 people had been killed in the conflict.

Your feedback is always welcome.
Thank you!

Why We SHOULD Protest Against The Syrian Regime?

Thousands call to join "day of rage" protest against Assad

No comments:

Post a Comment