* Friday another test for Assad, democratic opposition
* Death toll in Deraa rises to 50 - group
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis
DAMASCUS, April 28 (Reuters) - The Muslim Brotherhood called
on Syrians to take to the streets ahead of Friday prayers and
help the besieged city of Deraa, where a rights group said
civilian deaths from a tank-backed army attack rose to 50.
It was the first time that the Brotherhood, ruthlessly
crushed along with secular leftist movements under the rule of
late President Hafez al-Assad, had called directly for protests
in Syria since pro-democracy demonstrations against Assad's son,
President Bashar al-Assad, erupted six weeks ago.
A declaration by the Brotherhood, sent to Reuters by its
leadership in exile on Thursday, said: "Do not let the regime
besiege your compatriots. Chant with one voice for freedom and
dignity. Do not allow the tyrant to enslave you. God is great."
The protests have drawn a cross section of Syrian society,
which has been under Baath Party rule for the last 48 years. The
younger Assad kept intact the autocratic political system he
inherited in 2000 while the family expanded its control over
Syria's struggling economy.
The Brotherhood said accusations by the authorities that
militant Islamists were behind the unrest were aimed at
fomenting civil war and undermining nationwide demands for
political freedoms and an end to corruption.
But Friday, the Muslim day of rest and prayers, has been the
main opportunity for protesters to gather, challenging repeated
warnings by the authorities not to demonstrate.
Security forces shot dead at least 120 protesters last
Friday, said Syrian human rights organisation Sawasiah, in the
biggest demonstrations Syria has seen since the democratic
uprising erupted in Deraa on March 18, with pro-democracy
protests spreading to regions across the rest of Syria.
Three days later the Fourth Mechanised Division, under the
control of Assad brother's Maher stormed Deraa, echoing their
his father's 1982 attack on the city of Hama to crush a revolt
led by the Muslim Brotherhood, killing anywhere between 10,000
and 30,000 people.
Assad tightened the security grip in and around Damascus on
Thursday, with various security forces and secret police units
deploying in the nearby towns, Erbin and Tel and in the Damascus
district of Barzeh and the suburbs of Douma and Daraya, rights
activists and witnesses said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack on
Deraa has killed at least 50 civilians, with essential supplies
in the city running law.
The offensive helped intensify criticism against Assad in
the West, which took steps to rehabilitate the Syrian ruler in
the last three years. The United States says it is considering
Ambassadors of European Union governments to Brussels plan
to meet on Friday to discuss the possibility of imposing
sanctions against Syria, which could include asset freezes and
travel restrictions on key officials.
One EU diplomat said it may be too early for the bloc to
make a binding decision on Friday but governments could send a
message signalling sanctions were on the table.
"I'd expect a political signal towards sanctions but maybe
not a decision yet," the diplomat said.
Other EU measures against Syria could include freezing
financial aid, which amounts to 43 million euros ($64 million) a
(Editing by Jon Hemming)
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