Saturday, June 18, 2011
Protesters shout slogans during a demonstration against President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian eastern town of Deir al-Zour, near the border with Iraq June 17, 2011.
"(Reuters) - Syrian troops and gunmen loyal to President Bashar al-Assad stormed a town near the Turkish border on Saturday, burning houses and arresting dozens, witnesses said, in a persistent military campaign to crush popular revolt.
The latest assault followed another Friday of protests, which have grown in size and scope over the last three months, despite Assad's violent clampdown on public dissent. Activists said security forces shot dead 19 protesters on Friday.....
"Bdama's residents don't dare take bread to the refugees and the refugees are fearful of arrests if they go into Bdama for food," Rami Abdulrahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told Reuters.
Another witness said government troops were also burning crops near hillsides in an apparent scorched earth policy.[Hassan Nasrallah must be thrilled with that!]....
"SECURITY GRIP IS WEAKENING"S
Tens of thousands rallied across Syria on Friday, defying Assad's repression and ignoring a pledge that his tycoon cousin Rami Makhlouf, a symbol of corruption among the elite, would renounce his business empire and channel his wealth to charity.
Witnesses and activists said people rallied in the southern province of Deraa where the revolt began, as well as in the Kurdish northeast, the province of Deir al-Zor, which borders Iraq's Sunni heartland, the city of Hama north of Damascus, the Mediterranean coast and suburbs of the capital itself.
"The security grip is weakening because the protests are growing in numbers and spreading. More people are risking their lives to demonstrate. The Syrian people realize that this is an opportunity for liberty that comes once in hundreds of years," opposition figure Walid al-Bunni told Reuters from Damascus.
The worst bloodshed on Friday was in Homs, a merchant city of 1 million people in central Syria, where the Local Coordination Committees, a main activist group linked to protesters, said 10 demonstrators were killed.....
The International Federation for Human Rights and the U.S. based Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies said in a statement that, according to local sources, Syrian forces had killed more than 130 people and arrested over 2,000 in Jisr al-Shughour and surrounding villages over the last few days.
The number of refugees who have crossed over from Syria has reached 10,114, and another 10,000 were sheltering by the border just inside Syria, according to Turkish officials....."