Middle East
Syria deploys troops after protests
Forces gather at entrances to the southern city of Daraa, a day after a protester was killed during a demonstration.
Last Modified: 21 Mar 2011 21:11
Rallies in Daraa intensified after five civilians were reportedly killed on the first day of protests [Reuters]

Syrian troops have been deployed in the southern city of Daraa a day after an anti-government protester was killed when forces reportedly fired on a demonstration.

News agencies, citing residents, said that thousands of Syrians marched on Monday in the town following the funeral of Raed Akrad.

A resident told the AFP news agency that a "mass of demonstrators started to march from the cemetery towards al-Omari mosque after the burial".

Demonstrators chanted "Just God, Syria and Freedom," and "Revolution, revolution" according to the resident.

Another witness said security forces had been deployed to block protests, but people had gathered regardless.

Later in the day, Rula Amin, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Daraa, said the situation was still "very tense but quiet". 

"There are a lot of security, the army as well as police, there are a lot of checkpoints. But we didn't see any protests, people told us there was a funeral this morning but it ended with no clashes," she said.

Separately, activists said an 11-year-old boy died on Monday after injuries he suffered when security forces dispersed an earlier demonstrations in the city.

More protests

Protesters have been demonstrating in Daraa since Friday, calling for an end to corruption and 48 years of emergency law. Rallies intensified after five civilians were killed on the first day of protests.

On Sunday crowds set fire to the courthouse and other buildings, including the headquarters of the ruling Baath party.

Smaller protests have been held in Jasim and Inkhil, near Daraa, and other Syrian cities including the capital, Damascus, and the Kurdish city of Qamishli.

"Eleven people were detained Friday after a demonstration outside the Omayyed mosque in Damascus, and several others were arrested in the port city of Banias," said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The protests are becoming a major challenge for Bashar al-Assad, Syria's president, as activists inspired by the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt call for action.

Haitham al-Maleh, an 80-year-old lawyer and a prominent activist, said the ruling hierarchy was incapable of launching the political reforms that could avert a crisis.

"All the Syrian provinces will erupt. There is near consensus that this regime is unsustainable. The masses do not want it," he told Reuters in an interview.

"Corruption has eaten the system to the bone. The security apparatus is not accountable to any law."

Maleh, who has spent many years in jail and was released two weeks ago under an amnesty for
elderly prisoners, said Syria needed to curb its pervasive security apparatus, develop the rule of law, free thousands of political prisoners, allow freedom of expression, and reveal the fate of tens of thousands of dissenters who disappeared in the 1980s.

Al Jazeera and agencies
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