Middle East News
Eight killed as thousands protest across Syria
Jun 17, 2011, 13:49 GMT
Cairo/Beirut/Damascus - At least eight people were killed in Syria Friday as security agents used force and live ammunition against protesters rallying against President Bashar al-Assad and his regime.
Three were shot in the central city of Homs, and 11 were injured, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria reported online.
A 16-year-old was killed in Dael town, in the southern Daraa province, where heavy shooting had been reported since morning. Activists also said that tanks moved from the outskirts of the city into Al-Awsat street where the protesters gathered.
Violent crackdown on protesters left another four dead in Damascus countryside, Aleppo and Deir al-Zour.
Syrian rights groups say a total of 1,300 civilians and more than 300 soldiers and police have been killed since the uprising against al-Assad began in March.
The death toll is difficult to verify as the government has banned the entry of foreign journalists and international human rights groups. More than 10,000 people have been detained.
Tens of thousands took to the streets across Syria Friday despite fresh concessions by President Bashar al-Assad's regime to quell rallies.
Protesters were also demonstrating in the cities of Abu Kamal, Hama and al-Qamishli, activist said online. Residents of the coastal city of Latakia were calling for 'bringing down the regime' and 'national unity.'
In Banias, the army shot at protesters as they converged out of Friday prayers,' Rami Abdel Rahman of the London-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, told the German Press Agency dpa.
'There was a number of casualties,' he added without giving details.
The Syrian army has replaced its units in Daraa after numerous soldiers in the city's garrison deserted, rights activist Abdallah Abi Zeid told Al Jazeera television.
There have been numerous reports of soldiers defecting, including in Jisr al-Shaghur where a man claiming to be a Syrian army colonel said he and fellow deserters helped the towns civilians flee ahead of a security crackdown.
Protesters vowed to continue their rallies despite a decision by a cousin of President al-Assad to quit his business, in a move seen as another government bid to quell its opponents, who since March have been calling for reforms and the ouster of Assad.
Rami Makhlouf, widely-seen as a symbol of corruption in the country, announced late Thursday that he would be divesting from his businesses and taking on charity work instead.
Makhlouf's businesses include the country's largest mobile phone operator, Syriatel, as well as companies in the tourism, real estate and construction sectors.
He announced he would put his 40 per cent holding in Syriatel up for a public offering, with profits allocated to humanitarian work and families of those killed in the unrest.
Makhlouf has been targeted by European Union and United States sanctions. Protesters have torched some of Syriatel offices since the unrest began.