|Supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad held a huge rally in the city of Latakia [Reuters]|
Syrian troops have been accused of planting mines along a region bordering northern Lebanon, according to AFP news agency quoting a Lebanese official.
The official, who refused to be named, said on Thursday that the troops began planting the mines at dawn in an area facing two Lebanese villages – Knaysseh and Al-Hnayder – in a bid to stem weapons smuggling along the porous border.
“A number of Syrian soldiers were also seen deploying on their side of the border, near the Syrian villages of Heet and Buwayt,” he said.
Meanwhile, eight people have been killed – five in Homs, two in Deraa and one in Jableh – as the government crackdown continued against anti-government protesters, as per the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights [SOHR].
A 14-year-old boy was among the dead, killed after security forces opened fire in the town of Dael in Deraa province.
The rights group said more than 20 people have been arrested there.
The Local Co-ordination Committees, an activist network on the ground, said security forces entered several towns to the east of Damascus looking for people “on the basis of lists”.
Security forces on Thursday resorted to what residents said high-handedness and excessive force after residents in Deraa, in southern Syria near the border with Jordan, went on a strike.
“Merchants are opening their shops under threat of force. The security forces had smashed shops last night and warned that anyone who does not open will find a security personnel in their shop,” Salem Jawabreh, a butcher in the Mahatta area of Deraa, said by telephone.
State television, meanwhile, broadcast images of a huge rally supporting President Bashar al-Assad in the coastal city of Latakia, saying people had shown up to voice their support for Assad’s reform programme and their rejection of foreign interference.
The demonstration in Latakia came one day after a similar pro-government rally was held in the capital, Damascus.
Several times since protests broke out in March, Assad has promised reforms, but opponents have said that these were too little too late.
The United Nations says about 3,000 people have been killed since protests began in March, including protesters and members of the security forces.
On the diplomatic front, foreign minister Walid al-Muallem held talks with China’s special envoy for the Middle East, who reaffirmed his country’s opposition to foreign interference in Syria, Syria’s official news agency said.