Middle East News
Syrian troops storm coastal city following mass protests
May 7, 2011, 8:15 GMT
A handout photo made available on 06 May 2011 by Syrian official news agency SANA shows a resident of the southern city of Daraa waving the national flag on a military vehicle. EPA/SANA HANDOUT
Cairo/Damascus - Syrian troops have swept into the coastal city of Banias, activists said on Saturday, following a day of mass protests across the country against President Bashar al-Assad.
Phone lines with the city and the surrounding area were cut off, activists said.
Troops and tanks entered Banias two days after a convoy of military vehicles pulled out of the southern city of Daraa, which the army had besieged for 10 days.
At least 12 demonstrators were killed Friday when thousands of Syrians staged fresh protests against President al-Assad in what was dubbed the 'Friday of Defiance.'
The government said that ten police and army members where killed Friday, when 'armed terrorist groups' attacked them, the official news agency SANA reported Saturday.
'We were ordered not to fire, but when a group of protesters approached, we asked them to return. Later, they suddenly opened fire against members of the patrol,' policeman Ahmad Suleiman told Syrian TV.
European Union ambassadors on Friday agreed to impose a weapons embargo on Syria and sanctions against its leaders, but kept President al-Assad off the list. The measures still have to be approved by EU member states.
The sanctions - expected to include asset freezes and travel bans - will apply to 13 people who have been involved in the suppression of opposition protests.
The United States also threatened further steps against the Syrian government at the end of another day of bloodletting, and praised protesters for pushing for change.
Protests in favour of greater freedoms and political reforms began in mid-March, with the opposition saying the death toll resulting from the regime's violent crackdown has topped 600.
Syrian human rights groups have issued a list of the names of more than 350 individuals who have died in Daraa alone.
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