As Syrians mourn slain protesters, another is reportedly killed
Syrians on Saturday mourned the 37 people killed a day earlier in clashes with security forces, only to face fresh rounds of gunfire and at least one more death, human rights activists and witnesses said.
In Dara, the southern city that has served as the focal point for more than three weeks of protests, Internet and phone connections were severed, but reports emerged that residents marched in honor of those killed there Friday and chanted, “The people want to topple the regime.”
Security forces fired off shots to disperse the crowd; one person was killed and several others were taken to a hospital in critical condition, witnesses said.
“I think people will get angrier because the authorities haven’t offered anything but blood and more blood during the last weeks,” said Razan Zeitoune, a human rights attorney in Damascus, the capital, who has contacts throughout the country.
President Bashar Assad, in his only public appearance since the demonstrations began, went on state television late last month to lay out a gradual path to reform, but protests continued after he declined to say when he would lift the 48-year-old emergency law that has been used to stifle opposition and justify detentions without trial.
On Saturday, scores of people reportedly were injured when security forces used live ammunition to disperse hundreds of protesters in the coastal city of Latakia, where the political and business elite are particularly close to Assad.
In Salamiyah, the army entered and fired shots in the air to disperse protests, and witnesses said thousands continued to rally in the city of Baniyas. In Damascus, small protests pierced the calm for only minutes before security forces overwhelmed the demonstrators, witnesses said.
The protests Friday were the largest and deadliest since government forces first fired on demonstrators March 18. Before Friday’s violence, human rights activists had collected the names of an estimated 130 civilians killed during the unrest.
The government contends that far fewer have died and that much of the violence has been caused by foreign “saboteurs.”
Times staff writer Therolf reported from Cairo and special correspondent Sandels from Beirut.
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