Syrian Forces Fire on Demonstrators at Anti-Government Rallies, Group Says (Bloomberg)

(Bloomberg) Syrian security forces fired on anti- government protesters in several cities, wounding several, as they broke up rallies, a human rights group said.

Security forces shot at protesters in Deir-Al Azour, Homs and the city of Zabadani, near the border with Lebanon, while “violently”

dispersing a rally in the Rukn al-Din neighborhood of Damascus, said Mahmoud Merhi, head of the Arab Organization for Human Rights, in a phone interview from Syria. At least five people were injured in Zabadani and there were also casualties in Deir Al-Zour, he said. Demonstrations were also under way in Qamishli and the province of Idlib.

At least three protesters were killed late yesterday, as opposition groups prepared for rallies that began today after Friday prayers, according to Merhi. The protesters were killed in the

town of Dael, part of the Daraa governorate where demonstrations against the government of President Bashar Al- Assad began in mid-March.

Syrian demonstrators called on the army to join the protests after today’s prayers. Syria’s crackdown has killed at least 1,100 people, according to Merhi and Ammar Qurabi, head of Syria’s National Organization for Human Rights.

Syrian opposition groups and activists will hold a conference in Turkey May 31 in support of the protesters demanding political reform, Qurabi said in an interview yesterday. The three-day event in the Mediterranean city of Antalya will bring together more than 200 people, he said.

Communications Disrupted

Security forces continued to make arrests and checkpoints were set up in the Damascus suburbs of Douma and Harastaand at flashpoints such as Daraa and Homs, Merhi said.

Photographer: XINHUA/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Land-line telephone connections in Douma and Harasta were cut and mobile communications disrupted, he said. Shibli al-Ayssami, a leading Syrian opposition figure, and his wife went missing this week in Lebanon, Qurabi said.

The European Union announced sanctions on Syria May 23 aimed at “the highest level of leadership,” as well as a review of aid programs. The U.S. froze the assets of Assad and top officials. President Barack Obama last week urged Assad to stop the killing and lead a peaceful transition to democracy or “get out of the way.”

The government has blamed the unrest on Islamic militants and “terrorist elements” seeking to destabilize the country. Assad initially promised reforms in response to the protests, which followed popular uprisings that ousted rulers in Tunisia and Egypt, though those pledges haven’t been repeated in recent weeks as security forces stepped up their crackdown.

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