At Least 5 Protesters Die in Syria as Residents Flee Crackdown

Posted June 10th, 2011 at 11:05 am (UTC-5)
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Syrian security forces have opened fire on protesters, killing at least five people while thousands of Syrians continue to flee into neighboring Turkey.

Rights groups and witnesses say three people were shot dead during a large rally in a Damascus suburb on Friday. Two protesters were also reportedly killed in a village in the southern flashpoint Daraa region, where security forces in a vehicle opened fire on demonstrators.

However, Syria's state-run television says gunmen shot and killed a security force member but did not mention civilian deaths.

Also, state media reports say the army has started operations to “restore security” in the northern city of Jisr al-Shughour near the Turkish border. The reports say the army moved tanks into the area to gain control of the city at the request of residents who asked the military to arrest “armed gangs.”

Most of the town's residents reportedly fled this week after government officials vowed a crackdown following an incident Monday where Syrian authorities say 120 security personnel were killed.

Turkish news reports said Friday the number of Syrians who have fled across the border region into Turkey has swelled to almost 3,000.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the Syrian government for its crackdown on protests. The semi-official Anatolia news agency quotes him as calling the crackdown an “atrocity” and saying the Syrian government has not behaved “humanely.” He added that Turkey is making plans for a refugee buffer zone on the border.

Diplomatic efforts to quiet Syria's unrest are unfolding on several fronts. Russian special envoy Mikhail Margelov said Friday that he planned to meet soon with representatives of Syria's opposition.

Also, diplomats at the United Nations are circulating a draft resolution that calls for the Security Council to condemn the Syrian government's crackdown. Earlier, Russia said it opposes the measure because Syria's unrest does not pose a threat to world peace or security.

In Brussels, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the “slaughter of innocent lives” in Syria should be a concern for everyone.

Rights groups say at least 1,100 people have been killed in the Syrian crackdown that began in March and more than 10,000 people arrested.