Saturday, May 7, 2011

Syria sends tanks into Baniyas as regime refuses to compromise

Syria’s autocratic regime was accused of killing three women on Saturday after security forces apparently opened fire on an all-female demonstration protesting the crackdown on the country’s democratic uprising.

President Bashar al-Assad

The women died as President Bashar al-Assad sent tanks in the seaside town of Baniyas, where it sought to replicate the shoot-and-crush tactics already used to brutal effect elsewhere across the country.

All-female demonstrations can normally expect gentler treatment from the Syrian security forces, who have recently taken to mass arrests of military-age males in their attempts to restore government authority. But the march on the outskirts of Baniyas got no such mercy. As the women participated in a small demonstration on the main coastal highway outside the town, they were shot by plain clothes security agents, said human rights activists.

Phone lines to Baniyas were cut, but videos posted online showed columns of tanks, trucks and other armored vehicles moving down roads into the city.

Residents who did manage to get calls out reported shooting on the street.

The U.S. called yesterday for a "strong international response" to Syria's crackdown. Security forces killed as many as 40 people and arrested hundreds during demonstrations on Friday, according to the London-based Syrian Human Rights Committee. Syria denied the reports.
All-female demonstrations

While Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has promised political changes as he faces the most serious challenge to his 11-year rule, that has failed to halt protests. Demonstrations began in mid-March, inspired by uprisings that ousted rulers in Tunisia and Egypt earlier this year. Libyan leader Muammar Gadahfi has battled a rebel insurgency since mid-February that split the country with Africa's largest proven oil reserves.

"The Syrian government must respond to the Syrian people's call for change," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement yesterday. "It must realize that violence and intimidation will not answer their call."

Clinton said she is "particularly troubled" by reports that at least 30 people were killed by security forces during protests. "The Syrian government's actions are neither those of a responsible government nor a credible member of the international community," she said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

In Baniyas, three women were killed during clashes, without saying how it obtained the information. The women were participating in a protest near the port city when they were killed.

As many as 15 people killed in Homs yesterday, according to Ammar Qurabi, head of Syria's National Organization for Human Rights. State-run Syrian TV said today that 11 members of its security forces were killed in Homs yesterday.

Snipers were deployed on rooftops, and seven tanks were sent into the city, Razan Zaitouneh, a Damascus-based human- rights lawyer and activist, said on her Facebook page. Security forces fired live ammunition in Latakia, she said. Six people were killed in Hama, according to Qurabi.

Syria's Interior Ministry said 192 persons "involved in riot acts" turned themselves in to authorities yesterday in response to a government announcement that those who surrender between May 2-15 will be exempt from prosecution and punishment, the official SANA news agency reported today. The ministry said 553 people have so far surrendered.

"Those who turned themselves in were released immediately after pledging not to repeat any acts that may damage the security of the homeland and citizens," SANA said.

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