Syria: Tanks outside of Banias as protests intensify

Nearly 3,000 protesters chant for "overthrow of regime" in coastal city; death toll reaches 400, rights group says, demands ICC action.

By REUTERS
April 26, 2011 19:11
2 minute read.
A Syrian protester holds the national flag.

syrian flag and protester_311 reuters. (photo credit: Muhammad Hamed / Reuters)

 
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AMMAN - Syrian protesters in Banias chanted "the people want the overthrow of the regime" on Tuesday as forces deployed around the small coastal city for a possible attack, a rights campaigner in contact with Banias said.

"Our demands are peaceful. If they kill us, our souls will rise from our graves and demand freedom," Sheikh Anas Airout, a preacher in the city, told 2,000 to 3,000 protesters, according to the rights campaigner. 

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Syrian security forces have shot dead at least 400 civilians in their campaign to crush month-long pro-democracy protests, Syrian human rights organization Sawasiah said on Tuesday.

The group, founded by jailed human rights lawyer Mohannad al-Hassani, said the UN Security Council must convene to start proceedings against Syrian officials in the International Criminal Court and "reign in the security apparatus."

"This savage behavior, which is aimed at keeping the ruling clique in power at the expense of a rising number of civilian lives, calls for immediate international action beyond condemnations," Sawasiah said in a statement sent to Reuters.

"The murderers in the Syrian regime must be held accountable. The rivers of blood spilt by this oppressive regime for the past four decades are enough," the statement said.

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Sawasiah's board includes Syrian philosophy professor Sadeq Jalal al-Azem, whose book Self-criticism After the Defeat helped set the stage for a revival in Arab political thought after Israel's victory in the 1967 Middle East War.

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Separately, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said security police arrested rights campaigner Qassem al-Ghazzawi on Tuesday in his home city of Deir al-Zor in Syria's impoverished east after protests intensified in the region last week.

The Observatory also said Mahmoud Issa, a campaigner and former political prisoner arrested last week in the city of Homs, was referred to a military court on Tuesday on charges of "possessing a Thuraya satellite phone and an advanced computer."

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