Syria Forces Kill Six in Government Crackdown, Activists Say

Monday, 04 July 2011 12:12 PM

(Updates death toll in first paragraph, adds government comment in eighth. For more on the Middle East turmoil, see MET.)

July 4 (Bloomberg) -- At least six protesters died in Syrian cities in a crackdown by the security forces following rallies against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule that attracted thousands in the past three days, activists said.

One anti-government demonstrator was killed and 13 were wounded in Hama, where tanks and armored vehicles had been deployed at the entrance to the city, north of the capital, Damascus, Ammar Qurabi, head of the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria, said in a telephone interview from Brussels today. Three died in Maarat al-Numan during raids by the army, part of a response to the protests that has led to the arrest of hundreds of people across the country, he said.

Security forces killed at least two demonstrators today and two late yesterday in the Damascus suburb of Hajar Aswad, Mahmoud Merhi, head of the Arab Organization for Human Rights, said by phone from the capital. Rallies in Hama yesterday drew as many as 400,000 people, he said.

Pro-government forces have killed more than 1,500 people since the start of the unrest, according to Qurabi. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said July 1 that Assad is “running out of time” to meet the protesters’ demands. A U.S.- led effort to get the United Nations Security Council to condemn the violence was blocked by China and Russia.

Protester Buried

A protester who died in custody was buried yesterday in the Damascus district of al-Muadamiya, Merhi said. Hundreds were arrested in Hama, in the Damascus suburbs of Harasta and Douma, in the province of Idlib in the north and in the southern province of Daraa, where the rallies against Assad’s rule began in mid-March, he said.

Al Jazeera television and the Saudi Arabian state-run broadcaster showed people beating up a Syrian cleric after he said he wanted Assad’s government ousted at a meeting of opposition figures in a Damascus hotel.

The army has attacked demonstrators near the border with Turkey, deploying at least 60 tanks along with helicopters in Idlib. Three people died during rallies in the central province of Homs July 1, according to Qurabi.

At least 20,000 people have been arrested since the start of the unrest, and half of them remain in detention, according to Qurabi. Assad has blamed the protests on a foreign conspiracy, while also saying that the demands of demonstrators “have merit” and that reforms are needed.

National Dialogue

Critics of Assad’s leadership met at a conference in Damascus last week, as his government set up a national dialogue committee. Most activists say such measures won’t work without policy changes.

Thousands of Syrians have fled across the border to Turkey to escape violence in northern towns, straining relations between the countries.

As many as 15,315 Syrians have entered Turkey and settled in six tent cities set up by the Turkish Red Crescent in the province of Hatay, the country’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency said today in a statement. A total of 5,406 have since returned to Syria, with the number in the camps dropping to 9,909.

--With reporting by Emre Peker in Ankara. Editors: Heather Langan, Louis Meixler, Digby Lidstone, Karl Maier

To contact the reporter on this story: Massoud A. Derhally in Beirut, Lebanon, at mderhally@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net.

© Copyright 2019 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

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(Updates death toll in first paragraph, adds government comment in eighth. For more on the Middle East turmoil, see MET.) July 4 (Bloomberg) -- At least six protesters died in Syrian cities in a crackdown by the security forces following rallies against President Bashar...
Monday, 04 July 2011 12:12 PM
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