Rights group blasts Syria for arbitrary detentions as shelling kills 7 in protest town (Al Arabiya)


 

By ABEER TAYEL
Al Arabiya with Agencies

 The embattled Syrian regime is pushing ahead with its campaign of repression against political and human rights activists, holding many of them incommunicado and going after their families and friends, as at least seven Syrian civilians were reported killed in the town of Tel Kelakh to quell a pro-democracy uprising.

Protesters gather during a demonstration in the Syrian port city of Banias. (File photo)

Syria’s leaders talk about a war against terrorists, but what we see on the ground is a war against ordinary Syrians-lawyers, human rights activists, and university students-who are calling for democratic changes in their country,”

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director of the New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a statement late Sunday.

“Syria’s emergency law may have been lifted on paper, but repression is still the rule on Syria’s streets,”

she said according to Agence-France Presse

Syrian authorities have rounded up thousands of anti-regime protesters and activists amid a brutal crackdown to crush an unprecedented revolt that began March 15 and is threatening the country’s minority Shiite Alawite government.

Human Rights Watch said that in some cases, security forces had detained relatives and neighbors of the government critics in a bid to gather information on their whereabouts.

“The Syrian government is leaving no stone unturned in its efforts to detain and punish every last voice for civil society reform in the country,” Ms. Whitson told AFP.

She said many activists had chosen to send their families into hiding to ensure their security.

The United States and European Union have imposed sanctions on members of President Bashar al-Assad‘s inner circle but stopped short of targeting him personally.

At least seven Syrian civilians were killed on Sunday when Syrian troops shelled the town of Tel Kelakh near the border with Lebanon to quell a pro-democracy uprising, an activists’ protest group said.

The town, just a few kilometers (miles) from Lebanon’s northern border, is the latest focus of an intensified crackdown by Syrian troops and tanks, sent to quell demonstrations against the rule of President Assad.

The shelling on Tel Kelakh concentrated on al-Burj, Ghalioun, Souk and Mahata neighborhood, the Local Coordination Committees said in a statement, adding wounded people had little access to care because the main hospital in the town was sealed by security forces and the main road to Lebanon blocked, according to Reuters.

Authorities in neighboring Lebanon tightened security after hundreds fled from Syrian troops deployed to crush protests on Saturday, when activists said three Tel Kelakh residents were killed in shooting. A Lebanese security official said on Sunday border patrols had increased “to prevent illegal entry.”

Mr. Assad has tried a mixture of reform and repression to stem protests against his autocratic 11-year rule, which broke out two months ago in the southern city of Deraa, inspired by uprisings across the Arab world.

The United States and European Union have condemned President Assad’s crackdown, in which rights groups say about 850 people have been killed, and imposed targeted sanctions on Syrian officials.

The 46-year-old president lifted a 48-year state of emergency but also sent the army into the protest centers. With neither side emerging with a clear victory after more than eight weeks of unrest, the government promised on Friday to launch talks.

The Local Coordination Committees rejected on Sunday what the information minister had termed as a “national dialogue” proposed by Mr. Assad, saying the authorities must stop shooting of protesters first.

“The peaceful demonstrations and civic disobedience will continue … It is morally and politically unacceptable to have national dialogue before stopping all forms of killings and violence against peaceful protesters … lifting the siege on cities and releasing all political prisoners,” the group said in a statement sent to Reuters.

Troops backed by armor have now deployed in or around towns and villages across the southern Hauran plain, the central province of Homs and areas in the coast. The security grip has been also tightened in Damascus and its suburbs.

In a rare incident on Syria’s frontline with Israel, state television said Israeli forces killed two people taking part in an anti-Israel rally on the Syrian side of the occupied Golan Heights frontier on Sunday.

Since coming to power on his father’s death in 2000, Mr. Assad……..

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