Syrians turn out for ‘day of defiance’

Anti-government rallies get under way in many cities as troops are deployed in flashpoint areas

Pictures emerging from Deraa after the military said troops were pulled out show massive destruction [AFP]

Protesters have taken to the streets across Syria for another day of anti-government protests.
Authorities have responded by deploying the military in political sensitive areas, and there were reports of live ammunition being fired in the Damascus suburb of Tel.
Demonstrations began after Friday prayers as activists vowed a “day of defiance”.
A live stream from the coastal city of Baniyas showed huge crowds rallying.
In the mainly Kurdish town of Amuda, people were chanting “The Syrian people are one” and “Freedom, freedom, peaceful, peaceful”.
A doctor who planned to take part in the demonstrations said “indiscriminate killings and inhumane arrests have generated total disgust among the average Syrian”.
“Soldiers with rifles no longer deter people. The propaganda that this regime is the only guarantor of stability no longer washes,” he told Reuters news agency.
Tanks have taken up positions in flashpoint cities including Baniyas, Homs and Rastan, and more than 1,000 people have reportedly been arrested in the last week.

Troops have also been deployed in the Damascus suburbs of Irbin, Saqba, Douma and in the town of Tel, north of the capital, according to Reuters.

The army announced on Thursday that its forces were pulling out of Deraa, the southern city which has been under military siege since April 25.

However, activists said the army remained under the army’s control.

Footage emerging from the city showed massive destruction, with shelled buildings and burnt cars.

Activists say scores of civilians were killed during the siege and that a severe humanitarian crisis had emerged, with shortages of bread, water and gas.

Aid delivered

Aid workers from the Red Cross and Red Crescent delivered their first emergency relief supplies to Deraa on Thursday, according to a spokesperson for the organisation.

Hicham Hassan said a convoy of two lorries carrying clean drinking water and two more with food and first-aid material accompanied a team of 13 experts from the Syrian Red Crescent and International Committee of the Red Cross.

Meanwhile, the US and Italy warned Syria that it will face penalties and increasing isolation if it does not halt violence against demonstrators.

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said Syria had to know that there would be “consequences for this brutal crackdown”.

Diplomats said the European Union could reach a preliminary agreement on imposing sanctions on Syria’s ruling hierarchy on Friday, but had yet to decide whether Bashar al-Assad, the president, should be included.

Rights campaigners say army, security forces and assailants loyal to Assad had killed at least 560 civilians during seven weeks of pro-democracy demonstrations.

The authorities blame “armed terrorist groups” for the violence, including the killings of civilians and members of the security forces.

Syrian television has shown what it said were confessions of terrorists arrested in Deraa and caches of weapons it said were seized.

Assad said the protesters were part of a foreign conspiracy to cause sectarian strife.

Dorothy Parvaz, an Al Jazeera journalist, has been detained since she flew in to Damascus one week ago. The network and her family are calling for her immediate release.


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