The Syrian government has deployed troops on the streets of the capital Damascus with tear gas to stamp out yet another round of anti-regime protests, according to reports.
Demonstrations on the so-called “Day of Rage” are also going on in other cities across Syria as the revolt against the repressive rule of President Bashar al-Assad now enters its sixth week.
There are also unconfirmed reports of some Syrians fleeing to Lebanon to escape the violence.
At least 500 people have died during the unrest, with unknown hundreds more detained by the authorities.
Protesters are particularly incensed with another brutal crackdown in the southern city of Deraa, the focal point of the anti-Assad movement. Fifty people have reportedly been shot down there in recent days, with many unburied corpses lying on the streets.
The city is reportedly under a “lock-down” siege with no electrical power, phones or water service.
A witness told BBC that two people in Deraa were killed on Friday.
[The state troops] will open fire if you leave your house, another Deraa resident told Reuters.
A new element of the anti-government protests is the open participation of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist organization that
Assad’s father trued to destroy in the early 1980s and has since been outlawed.
The Brotherhood reportedly made the following direct appeal to protesters: Do not let the regime besiege your compatriots. Chant with one voice for freedom and dignity. Do not allow the tyrant to enslave you.
Meanwhile, foreign governments, especially in the west, are increasingly angered over Assad and his state security forces’ brutality.
Officials of the European Union (EU) are meeting in Belgium to discuss the possible imposition of sanctions against Syria; while the UN Human Rights Council is holding an emergency meeting in Geneva on Syria.
Within the Syrian regime itself, cracks are beginning to appear. On Wednesday, 200 member of Assad’s Baath party resigned in protest over violence directed at protesters. There are also reports of an increasing number of military officers and soldiers refusing orders to harm protesters.
Ausama Monajed, a spokesman for Syrian opposition groups, told the Associated Press: There are some battalions that refused to open fire on the people [in Deraa]. Battalions of the 5th Division were protecting people, and returned fire when they were subjected to attacks by the 4th Division.