Syrian forces break up protest marking killings

Protests held across Syria marking Hama massacre;unrest spreads to Aleppo, one killed Western.

By REUTERS
February 3, 2012 16:18
1 minute read.
Smoke rising over Syrian city [file]

Smoke rising in Hama, Syria 390. (photo credit: REUTERS)

BEIRUT - Syrian forces shot dead one person in the city of Hama on Friday as they broke up a protest marking the anniversary of a 1982 massacre by troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad's father, activists said.

The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said security forces dispersed the demonstrations in the Janoub al-Malaab district of Hama, where residents planned to release 1,000 red balloons to mark the killing of more than 10,000 people when Hafez Assad's forces crushed an Islamist uprising.

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Violence has raged on as diplomats at the United Nations wrangle over an Arab and Western draft resolution condemning today's Syrian authorities for a military crackdown on an 11-month-old revolt in which thousands of people have been killed.

Activists reported arrest campaigns and heavy gunfire in several areas and said at least four people had been killed, including two children in northern Idlib province and two civilians on the edges of Damascus, where the government beat back rebels who temporarily seized towns last week.

Syria's government says foreign-backed militants are behind the uprising against 42 years of Assad family rule. Authorities prevented any commemoration of the Hama killings in all that time.

Activists had said protests would be held across Syria on Friday after the main weekly Muslim prayers under the banner "Hama, forgive us".

On Thursday, residents coated many of Hama's streets with red paint to mark the four-week assault on the city and the razing of its old town by Hafez Assad's forces in February 1982.

At the UN Security Council, Arab and Western drafters of a resolution condemning Syria's crackdown revised their text on Thursday in an effort to avoid a Russian veto, though their draft included language Moscow has rejected.

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