Syrian forces continue crackdown

Five protesters killed during demonstrations against President Assad, as western nations call for further sanctions.

    People protest against President Bashar al-Assad on the first day of Eid Al-Fitr in the city of Suqba [Reuters]

    Security forces have killed at least five people in Syria, activists said, urging fresh anti-regime protests under the banner of "death rather than humiliation".

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said three people were killed and several more were wounded when security forces opened fire on protesters in the central region of Homs.

    The Britain-based organisation also reported "one dead and five wounded in an assault by the army and security forces on the village of Al-Rama" in the northwestern province of Idlib, near the Turkish border.

    The security forces went into action on Thursday after mass demonstrations late on Wednesday in several districts of Homs, the Observatory said.

    It said security forces also opened fire to disperse demonstrations in the country's second city of Aleppo, in the north.

    According to the Local Coordination Committees (LCC), which group activists on the ground, armoured cars entered the city of Homs itself.

    And the LCC said a young man was killed by pro-regime militiamen in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor.

    A girl of 10 was also reported to have died of wounds suffered late on Wednesday during a shooting near police headquarters at Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria as she rode in a taxi with her family.

    The UN says that more than 2,200 people have been killed since the beginning of near-daily protests across the country against Assad's regime in mid-March.

    Abdel Karim Rihawi, the head of the Syrian League for the Defence of Human Rights, said dozens of people had been arrested on Wednesday at Qadam and Qabun in the Damascus region, and in Zabadani, northwest of the capital.

    Activists on the Facebook page "Syrian Revolution 2011" defiantly called for fresh protests on Friday, the Muslim weekly day of prayers and rallying point for demonstrations.

    The rallies will be held under the slogan of "death rather than humiliation", it said. "We are ready to die in the millions as martyrs."

    International pressure

    In Paris, Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said the world community should escalate pressure on President Bashar al-Assad by targeting Syria's oil and gas exports to force him from office.

    "The violence must stop and he needs to step aside," Clinton said in Paris after a meeting about Libya, where Muammar Gaddafi has already been forced from office.

    A senior Syrian official, meanwhile, said in a contested video posted on YouTube that he has resigned in disgust at hundreds of killings and thousands of arrests by Assad's regime.

    Oil blockade

    Assad's regime has defied Western sanctions over its deadly crackdown on dissent, blaming "armed terrorist gangs" for the violence.

    The EU is to formally adopt a ban on Syrian oil imports on Friday, but the embargo will not take effect until November 15 for existing contracts, after Italy insisted on a delay, according to diplomats in Brussels.

    They also told the AFP news agency that the EU would also expand its list of people targeted by an assets freeze and travel ban.

    David Cameron, the UK prime minister, told Al Jazeera that "it's totally regrettable that the UN hasn’t been able to put forward a combined resolution properly on Syria".

    "What [Assad is] doing to his people is disgraceful. It’s very good that UK, France and America and Germany and others and some Arab countries have been saying 'This man has got to go'", Cameron said. "That is a good start but we need to take more concerted action."

    The UK and US are calling for a tougher stance on Syria as European nations consider new oil sanctions.

    "Syria must be allowed to move forward," Clinton said on Thursday. "Those who have joined us in this call must now translate our rhetoric into concrete action to escalate the pressure on Assad and those around him."

    This pressure must include "strong new sanctions targeting Syria's energy sector to deny the regime the revenues that fund its campaign of violence".

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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