Angry Friday: Syrians Protest in large numbers , Assad Thugs respond by killing Peaceful Protestors ( Al-Jazeera English)
At least 16 people killed when security forces fire at thousands of protesters trying to enter the besieged Syrian city.
Last Modified: 29 Apr 2011 10:13 am
Syrian security forces shot dead at least 15 people when tens of thousands of protesters rallied for a “day of rage”, defying warnings of a harsh crackdown, activists said.In the protest epicentre of Deraa, rights groups said that security forces fired on thousands of protesters trying to enter the besieged city.Al Jazeera‘s Rula Amin said that sources have revealed that “the situation in Deraa is dire”.
“Deraa has been under siege since Monday morning. Residents from the surrounding villages were trying to break the siege as they tried to get supplies.
“They met with hostile security forces who fired at them and we know that at least 15 people were killed.
“One resident told me that that people do not have supplies, no communication, the situation is dire and they wonder what the security forces want from the town,” or correspondent said.
The latest spate of violence comes as the UN Human Rights Council voted on Friday for a revised US-led resolution on the crackdown in Syria that asked the UN rights chief to send an investigative mission to the country.
The resolution also “unequivocally condemns the use of lethal violence against peaceful protestors by the Syrian authorities… and urges the Syrian government to immediately put an end to all human rights violations.”
Friday brought the largest anti-regime protest in the Syrian capital since protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s decade-long rule began last month.
Gunfire was reported in Damascus and in the coastal city of Latakia, with witnesses claiming that security forces have fired on protesters, according to the Associated Press news agency.
An estimated 15,000 protesters demonstrated in Damascus, many calling for the toppling of the regime.
After the protesters had dispersed, a small pro-government demonstration took place with demonstrators carrying sticks and chanting: “With our soul and blood, we sacrifice to you Bashar.”
Anti-government activists had called for protests following Friday prayers to commemorate the killings of over 100 protesters last Friday.
Al Jazeera correspondent Rula Amin, reporting from Damascus, said Friday’s slogan is “solidarity for Deraa” – the southern city that has borne the brunt of a crackdown by Syrian security forces.
The call for mass demonstrations was made in a statement on the Facebook page of Syrian Revolution 2011 which has called for protests for greater freedom inspired by uprisings elsewhere in the Arab world.
“To the youths of the revolution, tomorrow we will be in all the places, in all the streets … We will gather at the besieged towns, including with our brothers in Deraa,” the statement said.
It said demonstrations would also be staged in other flashpoint towns such as Homs in the centre of the country and Baniyas in the northwest.
Meanwhile, an eyewitness in Deraa, speaking to Al Jazeera on Friday from close to the Omari Mosque that has been a focus for the uprising, described a scene of death and devastation.
He confirmed earlier testimony from a separate source of a split in the military forces sent by Assad to lay siege to the city.
The witness said he had collected the names of the dead from different neighbourhoods and counted 25 bodies in his own area.
“Some areas smell really bad due to the bodies rotting in the street. No one can collect them for fear of being shot,” he said, the sound of continuous gunfire audible over the phone. Those bodies which have been collected are being stored in refrigerated lorries, he said.
“Deraa is completely surrounded by tanks and armed troops. There are snipers on the roofs of government buildings and tall buildings. They are hiding behind water tanks and some are even hiding in the minarets of mosques.”
The Reuters news agency reported on Friday that a human rights campaigner revealed that makeshift morgues in Deraa contain at least 83 corpses, including women and children.
We counted 83 bodies so far, many stored in refrigerator trucks. Most of the bullets went through heads and chests, indicating that snipers most likely had done the shooting,”Tamer al-Jahamani, a prominent lawyer in Deraa, told Reuters.
Muslim Brotherhood backs protests
Significantly, Friday’s demonstrations have the backing of the outlawed Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, which was crushed by the regime in 1982.
It is the first time that the Brotherhood has called directly for protests in Syria since pro-democracy demonstrations against Assad erupted nearly six weeks ago.
A declaration by the Brotherhood, sent to Reuters news agency by its leadership in exile on Thursday, said: “Do not let the regime besiege your compatriots. Chant with one voice for freedom and dignity. Do not allow the tyrant to enslave you. God is great.”
So far, the Brotherhood has been trying to keep a low profile, as the government has been trying to link them to protests, Amin said.
The protests have drawn a cross section of Syrian society, which has been under Baath Party rule for the last 48 years.
The younger Assad kept intact the autocratic political system he inherited in 2000 from his father, Hafez al-Assad.