BEIRUT — At least four students were killed, dozens injured and about 200 arrested Thursday when Syrian government forces stormed student dorms at Aleppo University, firing automatic guns and tear gas, activists said.
The predawn raid was followed by the closure of the university, sending ripples across Syria as some in the opposition wondered aloud whether the major city was finally fully joining the uprising.
The university, site of some of Aleppo’s most energetic and consistent dissent, was shut down in an escalated crackdown on antigovernment opposition. Aleppo has been seen as largely on the sidelines since the uprising against President Bashar Assad began more than a year ago.
But after the raid, demonstrations were held throughout the day across the city in support of the students, including a large group of lawyers who protested at the Palace of Justice.
Video taken in the dorms after the raid and posted on the Internet showed smashed windows, glass littering the floor, upended furniture and damaged walls. In one video, a young man carries a bucket of water down a hall and throws it on a fire raging in a room.
The raid came after a protest by more than 1,000 students in the school’s courtyard calling for the ouster of the regime, said a university activist who asked that his name not be used. Some faculty members for months had held small demonstrations, but students recently have organized protests that draw many teachers.
The sudden crackdown — with dozens of United Nations monitors already in the country — was seen across the nation as a possible turning point for the city. The level of violence witnessed in Aleppo had been far lower than much of the country has experienced in the last 14 months.
“That’s it; Aleppo has risen,” said Abu Muhammad, an activist in nearby Idlib province.
Students living in the dorms were sent home, many to villages and towns outside Aleppo that have taken up armed opposition to the regime.
But many other students took to the streets again during the day. In one online video, a group of young men can be seen tearing down a large poster of a candidate for the country’s coming parliamentary elections. The opposition has dismissed the elections as a farce.
One young woman is seen in a video holding up a sign that reads, “Occupied Aleppo University.”
The raid was denounced by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, who said in televised remarks that a peace plan accepted by the Syrian regime after it was presented by Kofi Annan, the United Nations and Arab League envoy, “has not succeeded.”
“If the regime’s intransigence continues, the international community will have to admit defeat,” he said, and the U.N. Security Council would then have to consider other options.
Meanwhile, an activist group reported that at least 25 people were killed Thursday across Syria, including eight in Homs province, which was under continued shelling. Shelling was also reported in Jabal al Zawiya and Maarat Numan, both in Idlib province.
Under the U.N. peace plan, the regime was to have pulled troops, tanks and other heavy weapons out of towns and cities weeks ago. Activists and U.N. officials say the regime continues to violate the provisions of the plan.