In Syria, ‘no dialogue with tanks'(Mail&Guardianonline)

Syrian security forces shot dead at least 30 demonstrators on Friday during protests that broke out across the country in defiance of a military crackdown which has killed hundreds of people, a rights activist said.

Other activists reported demonstrations elsewhere across Syria, a day after the United States told President Bashar al-Assad to reform or step down.

Syria has barred most international media since the protests broke out two months ago, making it impossible to verify independently accounts from activists and officials.

But activists reported protests from Banias and Latakia on the Mediterranean to the oil producing region of Deir al-Zor, Qamishli in the Kurdish east and the Hauran Plain in the south.

“No dialogue with tanks,” said banners carried by Kurdish protesters who shouted “azadi”, the Kurdish word for freedom, rejecting promises by the authorities for a national dialogue, a witness said.

Rights lawyer Razan Zaitouna said at least 30 demonstrators died on Friday. She reported 12 people were killed in Maaret al-Numan, south of Syria’s second city Aleppo, after tanks entered the town earlier in the day to disperse protesters.

Another 11 were killed in the central city of Homs, while seven died in Dera’a, Latakia, the Damascus suburbs and Hama, she added. Assad’s late father, president Hafez al-Assad, sent the military to Hama in the 1980s to crush an Islamist uprising.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is based in Britain, said at least 831 civilians had been killed since the uprising against autocratic rule erupted in the southern city of Dera’a nine weeks ago. It said at least 10 000 people had been arrested, including hundreds across Syria on Friday.

Syrian authorities blame most of the violence on armed groups, backed by Islamists and outside powers, who they say have killed more than 120 soldiers and police. They have recently suggested they believe the protests have peaked.

Security forces arrested 12 members of the Assyrian Democratic Party, from Syria’s Christian minority, in a raid on their headquarters in Qamishli on Friday, human rights campaigners said. Protests erupted in Damascus suburbs and its Barzeh district, where two witnesses said security forces fired at demonstrators and chased them in the streets. Plainclothes police conducted house to house arrests in Barzeh at night, a resident said.

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