Rights Activists Say Syrian Forces Kill 7

Posted August 30th, 2011 at 3:55 am (UTC-5)
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Syrian rights activists say government security forces have killed seven people, after opening fire on protesters on the first day of the Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan.

The Local Coordination Committees said troops killed six people in the southern towns of al-Harra and Inkhil, and another person in the central city of Homs following morning prayers Tuesday marking Eid al-Fitr.

The continued crackdown on political dissent comes a day after activists said security forces killed six people while storming areas around the country.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Monday the worst violence was in Sarameen, in northern Idlib Province. The group said security forces killed five people there and wounded at least 60 as they opened fire during search and arrest operations.

Security forces killed another person during operations in Qara, a suburb of the capital, Damascus. Rights groups reported similar raids in the village of Heet, near the border with Lebanon.

They also said troops have surrounded the central Syrian town of Rastan, the site of several protests against President Bashar al-Assad during the country's five-month-old popular uprising. Rastan is about 20 kilometers north of Homs on a highway that connects to the flashpoint city of Hama.

Meanwhile, dozens of government soldiers on the outskirts of Damascus defected to the opposition Monday. More troops are reported to have deserted their positions around Homs, the country's third-largest city.

Also Monday, the Reuters news agency quotes activists as saying security forces shot dead a former air force officer, Mostafa Selim Hezbollah, who had played a key role in coordinating army defections.

The operations came a day after Syria rejected an Arab League statement calling for an end to the deadly violence that has shaken the country. The 22-member Arab organization – of which Syria is a member – urged the government on Sunday to stop the bloodshed “before it is too late.”

The United Nations says more than 2,200 people have been killed since March, when protesters began calling for reforms and an end to Mr. Assad's 11-year autocratic rule.

The Syrian government has blamed the violence on what it calls armed gangs and terrorists backed by foreign conspirators.