At least 500 pro-democracy activists arrested, rights group says, after authorities deployed troops to quell protests.
|Syrian troops have been deployed to quell the pro-democracy protests [AFP]|
Three doctors from the private-run Hamdan hospital in Douma, the town in the Damascus countryside that has been a centre of protest, were arrested by the secret service on Monday night, according to two trusted sources.
The arrested included the director of the hospital, Dr Hosam Hamdan.
According to the first source, an activist in the area, the doctors had been arrested because they had disobeyed orders from the secret police to refuse treatment to protesters wounded in the armed crackdown by security forces.
As Al Jazeera reported on Friday, residents of Douma formed a human shield around the Hamdan hospital in an effort to prevent secret police breaking in and taking away the dead and dying.
“This is the last way we have to protect our wounded from being kidnapped by secret service,” said the second source, who took part in the human shield around the Hamdan hospital on Friday.
“We held the line until live fire was used and we had to run and hide. I saw the secret police break into the hospital and later when I went back to the hospital some of the bodies and some of the injured were missing.”
Fear of arrest
The source said doctors had been asking residents not to bring the wounded to the Hamdan hospital unless they were in a critical condition, fearing the secret police would try to arrest the injured inside the hospital, and take them away to a security prison or the military-run Tishreen hospital.
Similarly, doctors at hospitals and clinics in Homs, the Damascus neighbourhood of Berze, and Jableh, on the coast, have been told unofficially by secret police not to treat wounded protesters, according to doctors and residents of those cities who have spoken to Al Jazeera.
Since Sunday at least 13 people have been killed and dozens wounded in attacks by secret police and armed thugs in Jableh, a small city on Syria’s Mediterranean coast, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The dead and dying were taken to the Hamwi mosque in this coastal city, a doctor who gave his name as Dr Amer, told Al Jazeera.
“We can’t trust the state owned hospital because if we go there security could come in and finish them off,” he said. “We can’t even get to the pharmacy to get medicine because there are snipers on roofs. All I can do is try and stop the bleeding.”
Dr Amer has since gone into hiding since security services were looking for him.
According to two sources who reached friends of the doctor, security forces had surrounded his home and threatened his wife unless the doctor gave himself up.
A close friend of Dr Amer speaking to Al Jazeera on Tuesday said he had been unable to contact the doctor since Sunday and feared he had been arrested and killed. A second eyewitness in Jableh also said he had been unable to contact the doctor for the past two days.
In Maadamiya, a southern suburb of Damascus, a doctor told Al Jazeera he had begun treating injured protesters inside people’s homes rather than take them to hospital, after secret police beat an injured a 13-year-old as his father tried to get him to hospital.
“No one from Maadamiya wants to take their wounded to the hospital. Last Friday, a father tried to get his son to a small private hospital in Dariya, a town next to Maadamiya. The security men began to beat him with wooden sticks and didn’t allow the emergency section to hospitalise the 13 year old. The boy who was dying in front of his father eyes.”
The boy died soon after, said the doctor, having been unable to get treatment for his gunshot wound. The doctor said he was treating gunshot wounds to the head without anything like adequate medicine.
“No one can go to the private and public hospitals and health centres. Security is arresting the people who are hospitalised, the wounded protesters, and taking them to security branches and we don’t know where they are now,” he said.
“I try to help with simple tools, but I can’t do big surgeries. I can stop the bleeding and sew wounds, but not more. The army has many checkpoints around Maadamiya and they don’t allow anyone to get even some alcohol and antibiotics here.”
Similarly, Douma has been under a tight military lockdown since Monday, according to the local activist. No public transport is running between Douma and Damascus, with as many as seven checkpoints set up on the road between them. Mobile and fixed phone lines were cut for long periods as was internet access.
Reports from activists in Damascus said as many as 15 residents had been arrested in Douma on Monday, though the exact figure was impossible to verify. Eyewitnesses reported snipers on the rooftops and security men patrolling every neighbourhood.
According to the local activist, worshippers at dawn prayer on Monday were forced by secret police to leave the mosque in pairs rather than all together, in an apparent attempt to prevent large crowds gathering.