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Deraa protests (Archive)
Photo: AP
Syrian protestors: Liberate Golan
Anti-goverment demonstrators in southern Syrian city call Assad's brother, head of Republican Guard, a 'coward'; at least 200 people march in Damascus chanting 'we want to bring down government.' Clashes intensify Friday afternoon, death toll mounts

Protesters in the Syrian city of Deraa shouted slogans on Friday denouncing Maher Assad, brother of the Syrian president and head of the Republican Guard, a Reuters witness said.

 

"Maher you coward. Send your troops to liberate the Golan," thousands chanted as they headed to the main square in the city after the funeral of at least five protesters killed by security forces this week.

 

Israel captured the Golan Heights in a 1967 war.

 

Later, eyewitnesses reported at least 15 fatalities in the city's central square, al-Jazeera said. Opposition sources reported heavy clashes near the governor's home in town and said dead and wounded were lying in the streets. According to AFP, several people were also shot to death in the town of Sanamein, some 40 kilometers north of Deraa.

 

The Al-Arabiya network reported that the anti-government protests have also spread to the port city of Latakia in western Syria. Latakia is considered a stronghold of President Assad's supporters.

 

Meanwhile, at least 200 people marched in the center of Damascus, Syria after prayers on Friday in support of Deraa, the scene of protests against the Baath Party's rule. "The people want to bring down the government" called protesters as security forces tried to forcefully scatter the protesters and the secret police arrested dozens of people, a Reuters witness said

 

"We sacrifice our blood, our soul, for you Deraa," they chanted as they were met by President Bashar Assad loyalists chanting in support of the Syrian leader.

 

Security forces killed three people in the Mouadamieh district of Damascus, after a crowd confronted a procession of cars driven by supporters of President Bashsar al-Assad, residents said later Friday.

 

"The cars entered Mouadamieh after a protest by residents to denounce the killings in (the southern city) of Deraa," one of the residents said.

 

Hundreds of Syrian villagers marched on Friday to Deraa in support of protesters in the southern city, chanting "Freedom is ringing out". The crowd set off from the village of Dael near Deraa. Opposition sources claim over 100 people have died in the protests.

 

Bashar Assad promised Thursday to look into granting Syrians greater freedoms but despite Assad's gesture, which included a pledge to look into ending emergency law and an offer of large public pay rises, thousands of Syrians later turned out at the Omari mosque to chant "freedom, revolution".

 

Deraa's Mukhtar (village chief) Muhammad al-Mehamid claimed that protestors in the city captured an Iranian sniper brought into the area to fire at protestors. "What's happening in Deraa is a great embarrassment to President Assad," he said in a TV interview. "Images of weapons which Syrian TV said came from Deraa are baseless. The Syrian intelligence cooked it up. The fire came from one source only – the Syrian's regime."

  

'We sacrifice our blood, our soul, for you Deraa'

 

According to al-Mehamid "we have captured a man and we're waiting for the media to publish the truth. See that the man caught is a bearded Iranian who can't speak Arabic and has come to shoot us. We ask the international media – come see the truth."

 

The United States on Thursday issued a new condemnation of Syria's "brutal repression" of demonstrations and killings of civilians and also hit out at the arrest of rights activists.

 

White House spokesman Jay Carney said that those responsible for the violence must be held accountable and that the US called upon the Syrian government to exercise restraint and respect the rights of its people and call on all citizens to exercise their rights peacefully.

 

Meanwhile, two Republican senators demanded that the United States express support for the Syrian opposition and denounce any crackdown on demonstrators against President Bashar al-Assad's government.

 

"The Syrian people must know that the United States stands with them," said Republican Senators Jon Kyl and Mark Kirk, stressing "we can ill afford another timid embrace of a democratic uprising."

 

Reuters, AFP also contributed to this report

 

 


פרסום ראשון: 03.25.11, 14:43
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