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sábado, 1 de outubro de 2011

#news More deaths and injuries reported as thousands rally across Syria

Syrian demonstrators protesting against President Bashar al-Assad march with their banners through the streets after Friday prayers in Kafranbel. (Photo by Reuters)
Syrian demonstrators protesting against President Bashar al-Assad march with their banners through the streets after Friday prayers in Kafranbel. (Photo by Reuters)
Syrian security forces opened fire on protesters Friday as thousands rallied across the country to call for the downfall of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, activists said. Troops also clashed with armed anti-regime forces in central regions.

Syrian activists told Al Arabiya that at least 32 people have been killed and scores of others were injured by the fire of security forces across the country on Friday.

Earlier, a spokesperson for the General Syrian Revolution Commission, who was talking to Al Arabiya, said that at least 13 Syrians were reported to have been killed in Hama only.

Ali Hassan said five were killed in a Hama suburb, six in central Hama and one child was reported dead in Rastan.

In what may prove to be an important development, activists told Al Arabiya that defected army units were fighting to protect civilians. “Thank God we now have an army to defend us,” activists said.

“Civilians are joining the free army of Syria and we are being armed to defend ourselves against this regime.”

Protests across Syria

The protests spread from the capital, Damascus, and its suburbs to the southern province of Deraa, the northwestern province of Idlib as well as Hama and Homs.

Many of the protesters expressed solidarity with residents of the rebellious town of Rastan just north of Homs, where fighting has been raging for three days between troops and army defectors.

Amateur videos posted online by activists showed thousands of people shouting in support of the rebellion in Rastan, where fighting continued Friday.

“Rastan will overthrow the regime,” read one banner waved by protesters in the Damascus neighborhood of Qadam. Many of the protesters there covered their faces with scarves or masks to hide their identities, The Associated Press reported.

The Syrian government has banned foreign journalists and placed heavy restrictions on local media coverage, making it difficult to independently verify events on the ground.

The U.N. says some 2,700 people have already died in the government crackdown against the uprising that began in mid-March.

The protests on Friday followed the week’s main Muslim prayer services and were similar to demonstrations held across Syria every Friday for the past six months since the uprising against Assad erupted in the country's south.

A military official said Friday that two days of clashes between Syrian troops and anti-Assad forces in Rastan killed seven soldiers and policemen.

The official said 32 Syrian troops were also wounded in the fighting as government forces conducted a “qualitative” operation on Thursday and Friday in an effort to crush “gunmen” holed up inside the town.

The government describes its armed opponents there as “terrorist armed groups,” not army defectors.

Pro-democracy activists have called for demonstrations on Friday, traditionally a day for protests after the main weekly prayers, under the banner “Victory for our Syria and our Yemen. The people are stronger than any despot.”

Overnight, a large explosion was heard in the Ghuta district of Homs, and the Observatory said security forces fired indiscriminately on houses in the city “until dawn.”

AFP reported the Local Coordination Committees (LCC) group as saying there was shooting in the Damascus suburb of Qabun.

The LCC, which has activists on the ground across Syria, is an active member of the Syrian National Council ─ one of several opposition coalitions that has emerged since March to rally against the regime.

U.S. outrage over envoy attack

The latest deaths come after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demanded that Damascus “take every possible step” to protect American diplomats after supporters of President Assad tried to attack the U.S. envoy on Thursday.

The attempt to storm an office in Damascus where Robert Ford had just arrived came with the U.N. Security Council divided over whether to threaten Assad’s regime with sanctions.

Opposition figure Hassan Abdelazim, whom Ford had arrived to meet, told AFP that the mob “tried to break down the door of my office, but didn’t succeed” during a siege that lasted two hours.

Clinton said Washington had raised the attempted attack on Ford at “the highest levels” in Damascus and demanded that Syria “take every possible step to protect” U.S. diplomats.

She also spoke of an “ongoing campaign of intimidation” against not only American diplomats but those from other countries.

Draft resolution on Syria

At the United Nations, European members of the Security Council softened a draft resolution condemning Syria's crackdown but Russia said it could still not support the new text.

The latest version of the resolution showed that drafters Britain, France, Germany and Portugal had deleted a reference to U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay’s recommendation that the council consider referring the Syrian government’s crackdown to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The United States is expected to support it, envoys said, despite its disappointment about compromises made in an attempt to woo Russia, China, Brazil, India and South Africa.

In Paris, Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero expressed French frustration over the lack of agreement. “How many victims will we need to have before the UN Security Council faces up to its responsibilities?” he said.


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