In defiance of the government’s brutal crackdown, thousands of Syrians have taken to the streets across the country for yet another mass rally against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Al Jazeera said that five protesters were allegedly killed in the city Homs and another in Hama, although these reports have not been verified. In addition, live ammunition was reportedly fired upon protesters in Tel, a suburb of Damascus.
In Midan, a district of Damascus, protesters chanted “to heaven we go, one million martyrs!” according to Al Jazeera. A prominent opposition leader, Riad Seif, was reportedly arrested at this demonstration, AJ, said, quoting the daughter of the detainee,
Around 1.30 p.m, someone told me that my father was arrested at the al-Hassan mosque, Jumana Seif told Al Jazeera. A friend told me later that he [Riad] had been hit on his head by the security elements.
Prior to the protests, the Syria army deployed troops and tanks in several key cities, including Homs, Rastan, Baniyas and certain suburbs around Damascus.
Baniyas, the coastal city which has seen violence by state security forces in the past few weeks, witnessed a huge rally amidst a heavy military presence.
The regime has made it clear it will not tolerate anymore dissent, having arrested more than 1000 people in the past week alone, according to human rights groups. There are also reports that detainees are being tortured by security forces.
A Syrian doctor told Reuters that 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.”
Separately, Syrian military officials said yesterday that they were withdrawing troops from the Deraa, the city in the south that has been under siege for almost two weeks. However, there is some doubt as to the veracity of this claim. Human rights activists claim that much of the city has been destroyed, many people have been killed, and the lack of water, food and communication has created a humanitarian crisis.
However, teams from the Red Cross and Red Crescent have reportedly arrived in Deraa with medical supplies.
The chief of the Damascus office of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Deraa is a priority for us, because it is the city that has been hardest hit by the ongoing violence.
The US is urging Syria to cease the crackdown on demonstrators.
US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said: We abhor the violence there. I think I called it barbaric, the measures that were taken the other day against the citizens of Deraa, and we urge Syria to end these kinds of actions against innocent civilians who are simply expressing their aspirations for a democratic future.