Middle East News
Syrian Army takes over Daraa, activists say 39 killed
Apr 25, 2011, 15:43 GMT
Cairo/Damascus - At least 39 people were killed and 70 wounded Monday in the restive Syrian city of Daraa, pro-democracy activists said, after the army fired on demonstrators in the southern city.
Amid the rising death toll in Syria, international outrage was building against the Damascus regime.
The United States was considering further sanctions against the Damascus regime in the wake of the crackdowns, the White House said Monday in Washington. A report from London citing British officials said that European governments were pushing for a United Nations condemnation of the violence in Syria.
At the United Nations in New York, France, Britain, Germany and Portugal were reported to be drafting a text condemning the killings in Syria. These countries also support UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon's call for an independent, transparent investigation into the killings.
In Syria, an activist who requested anonymity told the German Press Agency dpa: 'Bodies of the dead and wounded were seen in the middle of the streets, especially near the area of al-Omari mosque where the first spark of the Syrian uprising started on March 15.'
He said people bled to death on the streets as they could not be taken to hospital amid the gunfire. Army tanks had moved into Daraa and were taking aim at people and houses, the activist said, and snipers were positioned on rooftops.
'I can tell you 3,000 troops entered the city, and they are currently raiding homes in Daraa,' a Daraa taxi driver told dpa. 'These are the forces of Maher al-Assad (brother of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad). They are shooting at anything that moves.'
A few Daraa residents told broadcaster Al-Arabiya that some troops refused orders to open fire on protesters.
The violence comes a day after at least 13 people were killed in the coastal city of Jableh, when security forces fired live ammunition to disperse mourners at funerals for those who died in an earlier protest.
There was no official confirmation of casualty figures. The Damascus government has for several weeks stopped issuing visas to foreign journalists.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that the US was considering 'a range of policy options including targeted sanctions to respond to the crackdown in Syria, and to make clear this behaviour is unacceptable.'
Syria is already subject to US sanctions including a number of trade and travel restrictions, and Carney did not detail what additional sanctions were under consideration.
'We are looking to make clear to the Syrian government how appalling we find this to be,' he said.
The Assad regime, which has repeatedly blamed 'foreign conspirators' for the widening unrest, said that troops were deployed in Daraa to quell a conspiracy by hard-line Islamists, known as Salafists.
Telephone lines and electricity were reportedly cut off in Daraa, where some residents were still able to communicate using Jordanian mobile phones.
Meanwhile, a Syrian official denied reports that the country's border with Jordan was closed.
'All the border posts with our neighbours, including Jordan, are open. The movement of cars and goods is normal,' Mustapha Bukai, director general of customs, told the official news agency SANA.
Jordanian Media Affairs Minister Taher Adwan had earlier said that the border was closed due to 'developments inside Syria,' according to Jordan's official Petra news agency.
Jordan's main opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, condemned the Syrian use of force against protesters and urged al-Assad to yield to demands for reforms and to end the 'monopoly' of the ruling Baath Party.
A group of 102 writers and journalists, both in Syria and in exile, representing the country's main religious sects, issued a declaration denouncing the crackdown. They called on Syrian intellectuals 'who have not broken the barrier of fear to make a clear stance and condemn the violent, oppressive practices of the Syrian regime against the protesters.'
The protesters have been demanding greater freedoms, reforms and the ouster of al-Assad and his Baath Party, which has ruled the country for nearly 40 years.
Human-rights advocates said security forces have killed an estimated 400 people since the unrest began more than a month ago.
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