At least 70 killed in Syrian uprising’s bloodiest day

City of Hama focus of violence as protesters mark ‘Children’s Friday;'Ban demands end to ‘repression.’

By OREN KESSLER, REUTERS
June 4, 2011 06:32
4 minute read.
Video capture taken of protests in Homs, Syria

Syria Protest Homs 311. (photo credit: Reuters)

Syrian forces killed at least 70 protesters on Friday, activists said, in the bloodiest day since the start of an 11-week revolt against the authoritarian rule of President Bashar Assad.

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets on Friday in defiance of security forces determined to crush the uprising.

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Rami Abdulrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said at least 60 people were killed in Hama, where Assad’s father Hafez crushed an armed revolt 29 years ago by killing up to 30,000 people and razing parts of the city.

Internet access was restored Saturday after authorities cut it off on Friday. Protests the day before were dubbed “Children’s Friday” for the more than 30 children estimated to have been killed since the Syrian revolt began in March.

A political activist in Hama said tens of thousands of people were attending the funerals of dead protesters on Saturday, and that more protests were planned later in the day.

“Anger is very high in the city, people will never be silent or scared. The whole city is shut today and people are calling for a three-day strike,” the activist, who gave his name as Omar, told Reuters by phone from the city. “We expect protests after the evening prayers.”

Residents and activists said that security forces and snipers fired at demonstrators who thronged Hama on Friday.

Quoting an eyewitness, Al Jazeera reported that security forces opened fire on a funeral procession of some 50,000 mourners Saturday in the northern city of Maarat an- Numan. The channel reported that demonstrations were held in four Damascus neighborhoods, as well as in and around the second city of Aleppo.

Syrian human rights group Sawasiah said one person was killed in Damascus and two in the northwestern province of Idlib. Seven people were also killed in the town of Rastan in central Syria, which has been under military assault and besieged by tanks since Sunday.

“It is worth noting that Hama and Idlib, where the biggest demonstrations occurred, used to be the stronghold of the MuslimBrotherhood,” said one activist who declined to be named.

“The numbers of people who took to the streets could be a message from the Brotherhood to the regime that “now we are taking part in the revolution in full weight.”

The activist said protesters burned the Baath Party office in Hama before the violence broke out.

Rights groups say security forces have killed more than 1,000 civilians so far, provoking international outrage at Assad’s ruthless handling of the demonstrators.

In Deraa, birthplace of the revolt, hundreds defied a military curfew and held protests on Friday, chanting “no dialogue with killers,” two residents in the city said.

Syrian forces also opened fire on demonstrations in the eastern city of Deir al-Zor and in Damascus’s Barzeh district.

Syrian authorities released on Saturday a prominent activist in jail since 2008, Abdulrahman said.

Ali Abdallah, in his 50s, had criticized Syria’s ally Iran. He was a member of the Damascus Declaration, a rights movement named after a document calling for a democratic constitution and an end of the Baath Party’s five-decade monopoly on power.

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Activists say there have been some instances of citizens resisting security forces with personal weapons, and of security police shooting soldiers who refused to fire at protesters.

Meanwhile, the UN chief on Friday demanded an immediate end to the “violent repression” and human rights abuses by Syrian forces.

Secretary-General Ban Kimoon “is deeply troubled by the continued serious violations of human rights, including disturbing reports of the deaths of children under torture, live ammunition and shelling,” UN spokeswoman Vannina Maestracci told reporters.

She said Ban “takes note” of a promised amnesty and call for national dialogue by the Syrian authorities, but added that Ban reiterated his for call for a full, transparent and independent investigation into the killings.

The UN Security Council is considering a draft resolution condemning Syria that was circulated to its 15 members by Britain, France, Germany and Portugal last week. Veto powers Russia and China have made clear they dislike the idea of council involvement in what they see as a domestic issue.

In Tehran, Iran’s Supreme Leader said the Islamic Republic backs all Muslim uprisings except those stirred by the United States and Israel. Without mentioning Syria by name, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Saturday, “If somewhere a movement is provoked by America and Zionists, we will not support it. Wherever America and the Zionists enter the scene to topple a regime and occupy a country, we are on the opposite side.”


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