Rights group says 20 people were killed across the country as EU imposed new set of sanctions.
|Syrians living in Jordan shouting slogans against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad during a rally in Amman [Reuters]|
Syrian forces shot dead two mourners when they fired at a funeral in central Damascus for a 10-year-old child killed during a protest a day earlier, a witness said.
Some mourners began throwing stones at the security forces, who fired live ammunition back, the witness told Reuters news agency by phone from the scene in the Maidan district on Saturday.
“Passions were running high. The body was wrapped in white and thousands behind it were chanting ‘the people want the execution of the president’ and ‘we will be free despite you Bashar’,” the witness said.
The child, Ibrahim Sheiban, was killed in a protest in the Qadam suburb of Damascus. His funeral took place in Maidan, an old, socially conservative district of the capital, because his family is originally from there, the witness, a private sector employee who did not want to be further identified, said.
Monzer Makhous of the Syrian National Council, a coalition of opposition groups, told Al Jazeera that the Maidan area is known for its opposition against Assad’s government.
“That’s why the security forces have shown such a large presence in this neighbourhood. That this rally took place is therefore symbolic and a big break for the protesters. We expect that these demonstrations will grow bigger.”
Meanwhile, president Assad formed a committee to draft a new constitution within four months, the official news agency said.
Under pressure from the street protests, the president has lifted a state of emergency and promised “multi-party” parliamentary elections by February.
“President Assad issued today decree number 33 which stipulates forming a committee to prepare for a draft constitution,” the state news agency SANA said.
The constitution, which was changed by Assad’s late father, President Hafez al-Assad, in the 1970s, discourages any political pluralism by stipulating that the ruling Baath Party is “leader of the state and society.”
On Friday, security forces killed 12 people in several cities at the centre of the seven-month old protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s government, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
In the course of a military operation to hunt down defectors in northwestern province of Idlib, near Turkey, security forces arrested 31 people, the observatory said in a statement received in Nicosia.
“Since dawn (on Saturday), security forces have conducted a search and arrest campaign in and around the (Idlib village of) Kfar Nubul looking for intelligence officers who deserted,” the Britain-based watchdog said.
The Local Co-ordination Committees, an activist network spurring protests on the ground, said gunfire was heard in several towns in Idlib, citing reports of defections in the area and a night demonstration broken up by security forces.
In the flashpoint central city of Homs, military and security forces backed by armoured vehicles stormed the Qusayr neighbourhood, raiding random houses, the same source said.
And gunfire rocked “most of the neighbourhoods” in the flashpoint southern city of Deraa, where the movement calling for greater freedoms and the fall of the Assad regime started in March.
Syrian security forces have pursued an unrelenting crackdown on dissent, with violence typically peaking on Fridays, when the main weekly Muslim prayers serve as a springboard for anti-regime protests.
But they are facing mounting armed resistance and defections, the Observatory has said, with clashes between soldiers and defectors, leaving 36 dead, including 25 soldiers on Thursday alone.