Protestor's funeral in Syria
Photo: AFP

Syrian security forces kill 18 in new assaults

Eight-year-old boy among dead as Syrian army continues fire on residential areas in efforts to crush ongoing uprising

The Syrian army shelled residential areas and unleashed security forces Wednesday in an intensified push to crush the uprising against authoritarian President Bashar Assad, killing an 8-year-old boy and at least 17 others, a human rights group said.


The lethal shelling evoked bitter memories of the regime's legacy of brutally suppressing dissent under Assad's father, Hafez. In 1982, Hafez Assad crushed a Sunni uprising by shelling the town of Hama, killing 10,000 to 25,000 people, according to Amnesty International estimates.


Ammar Qurabi, head of the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria, said 13 people were killed Wednesday in tank shelling on al-Haraa village outside Deraa, the southern city where the uprising began in mid-March. Five others were killed in the central city of Homs most of them in shelling, he said. Several were killed by gunfire.


More than 770 people have been killed in the current crackdown on anti-government unrest and thousands have been detained, with about 9,000 still in custody, Qurabi said.


Residents reported heavy tank fire and gunfire Wednesday in at least three residential neighborhoods in the besieged city of Homs, which has seen some of the largest anti-government demonstrations during the seven-week-long uprising.


"There were loud explosions and gunfire from automatic rifles throughout the night and until this morning," a resident told The Associated Press by telephone. "The area is totally besieged. We are being shelled."


Few details were leaking out of the Deraa area and calls were not going through. The government has been cutting off phone and electric services to try to isolate restive areas.


Assad has dispatched army troops backed by tanks to Homs and other communities across the country, saying soldiers and security forces are rooting out "armed terrorist groups" and thugs he says are behind the violence.


He has also announced a series of reforms, widely viewed as symbolic overtures to appease protesters since the movement began in the southern city of Deraa in mid-March and quickly spread nationwide.


Increasing international pressure

State-run Syrian TV said Wednesday the government formed a committee to come up with a new election law that would be "up to international standards."


Before the uprising, such a declaration would have been unthinkable in a country with harsh restrictions who is allowed to run. Assad himself inherited power from his father in 2000 after an election in which he was the only candidate.


The regime has come under increasing international pressure to end its crackdown.


Germany said several European countries were summoning Syrian ambassadors and threatening new sanctions targeting the country's leadership if it doesn't halt the repression of protesters.


The European Union already has decided to impose sanctions on 13 Syrian officials, prohibiting them from traveling anywhere in the 27-nation bloc. But the first round of sanctions doesn't target Assad himself.


Foreign Ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke said European officials will make clear that "a second package that also includes the Syrian leadership" will follow if Syria does not immediately change course.



פרסום ראשון: 05.11.11, 21:20
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