Middle East News
LEAD: Syria deploys forces, as 1982 massacre victims remembered
Feb 2, 2012, 17:25 GMT
Cairo/Beirut - Syria on Thursday deployed more forces in flashpoint areas across the country as the opposition commemorated the 30th anniversary of a massacre in the dissident province of Hama, said activists.
The Syrian forces were spotted beefing up their positions near the restive area of Zabadani on the outskirts of the capital Damascus.
'The regime is preparing for a massive attack on Zabadani,' Ayman Idlibi, a Syrian activist, told dpa.
Zabadani was last week the scene of fierce clashes between the Syrian army troops and deserters.
A Lebanese source close to the Syrian government told dpa that the regime was determined to 'cleanse' all areas near the capital where rebels are believed to be hiding, and set up a security zone.
Government forces made mass arrests and boosted their presence in Hama, which has been at the centre of the popular uprising against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Hama, a central province of 800,000 people, is known to be a bastion of the country's Sunni Muslim majority.
The province was the scene of a massacre that began on February 2, 1982, when government forces crushed an Islamist uprising challenging the rule of then-president Hafez al-Assad, father of the current president.
'People in Hama (Thursday) painted roads and walls in the city in red to remind the people that this regime has blood on its hands and that the stains of this blood will never vanish,' Idlibi, the activist, said.
At least 10,000 were killed in Hama's 27-day massacre, according to opposition and human rights advocates.
Hama's residents observed on Thursday a general strike to mark the massacre, said the opposition London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
At least nine people were killed Thursday in a crackdown by the government forces on protesters who were commemorating the massacre, said activists.
The United Nations Security Council is debating a draft resolution backed by the Arab League and the West that would end 11 months of the bloodshed in Syria.
The draft, calling on al-Assad to step down, is facing opposition from China and Russia, Syria's key allies.