Syrian women gather to protest_311.
(photo credit: Reuters)
Security forces and gunmen loyal to President Bashar al-Assad shot dead at least 70 pro-democracy protesters in Syria on Friday, the Syrian human rights organization Sawasiah said.
An official in Sawasiah, an independent organization founded by jailed human rights lawyer Mohannad al-Hassani, told Reuters the killings of civilians occurred the Damascus district of Barzeh, its suburbs Zamalka, Harasta, Douma, Muadamiya, Qaboun and Hajar al-Asswad, as well as in the cities of Hama, Latakia and Homs, and in the southern town of Izra'a.
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"At least 49 people were killed. There are a lot of wounded
and many people are missing. We believe there are at least 20
people missing, some believe they are dead," activist Ammar
Qurabi said. He said most of the dead had been shot, and a few
died after inhaling teargas. The Associated Press reported a boy among those killed.
Witnesses reported dozens injured in the deadly clashes.
in Damascus neighborhoods, Homs, and Douma and other Syrian towns
continued their call for democracy and the end of Assad's regime.
A witness told Dubai based Arabic news channel
Al-Arabiya that at least five had fallen wounded in Douma, 3 in Homs,
and at least two others in Deraa, a city that has seen sustained clashes
between anti-government protesters and police for weeks.
witness added that security forces had opened fire on protesters in the
Al-Hajar Al-Aswad neighborhood in Damascus, Al-Arabiya reported.
Forces also fired at protesters in the city of Hama to prevent them from reaching a ruling Baath Party headquarters.
saw two snipers on the building. None of us had weapons. There are
casualties, possibly two dead," a witness said, a human rights
campaigner who was at the protest.
Activists also reported
demonstrations in the eastern towns of Deir al-Zor and Qamishli, despite
Assad's decision on Thursday to lift emergency law, a central demand of
the month-long protests.
A witness told Reuters by phone that
security forces fired tear gas from a flyover overlooking Midan, a
district just outside the walls of Old Damascus.
"There were over
2,000 protesters and now hundreds have re-grouped," the witness said.
Chants of "the people want the overthrow of the regime", the rallying
cry of Arab uprisings from Tunisia to Yemen, were audible in the
More than 220 protesters have been killed since
protests erupted on March 18 in Deraa, rights campaigners say, including
21 protesters killed this week in the central city of Homs.
of the main weekly prayers on Friday, which have often proved the
launching pads for major demonstrations, the army deployed in Homs and
police put up checkpoints across Damascus, apparently trying to prevent
protests sweeping in from suburbs.
prayers finished in Deraa, several thousand protesters gathered
chanting anti-Assad slogans. "The Syrian people will not be subjugated.
Go away doctor (Assad), we will trample on you and your slaughterous
regime", they shouted.
A decree Assad signed on Thursday that
lifted emergency law, imposed by his Baath Party when it took power in a
coup 48 years ago, was seen by the opposition as largely symbolic,
since other laws still give security forces wide powers.
first joint statement since protests erupted five weeks ago, activists
coordinating the mass protests demanded on Friday the abolition of Baath
Party monopoly on power and the establishment of a democratic political
"All prisoners of conscience must be freed. The existing
security apparatus has to be dismantled and replaced by one with with
specific jurisdiction and which operates according to law," they said in
the statement, which was sent to Reuters.
Human Right Watch said
Assad "has the opportunity to prove his intentions by allowing
(Friday's) protests to proceed without violent repression.
"The reforms will only be meaningful if Syria's security services stop
shooting, detaining, and torturing protesters," said Joe Stork, the
group's deputy Middle East director.
Assad's conciliatory move to lift the state of emergency followed a
familiar pattern since the unrest began a month ago: pledges of reform
are made before Friday when demonstrations are the strongest, and are
usually followed by an intense crackdown.