Protesters seek to break siege

May 1, 2011 at 7:00 AM
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DAMASCUS, Syria, May 1 (UPI) -- Syrian anti-government protesters Sunday called for a week of nationwide protests to break the siege in Deraa and a Damascus neighborhood, officials said.

Dubbed "a week of breaking the siege," demonstrations were planned in Deraa Sunday and the Douma neighborhood of Damascus Monday. Activists are planning rallies in Banias and Jableh on Tuesday, Homs on Wednesday and towns near the Lebanese border on Thursday in conjunction with a nationwide vigil, Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty reported Sunday.

Last week the Syrian government deployed hundreds of military troops and tanks in Deraa, the site of fierce clashes between protesters and government forces, in an effort to quell the anti-regime demonstrations.

Scores of Syrian protesters have been killed and hundreds injured since the demonstrations began nearly seven weeks ago.

Army tanks have shelled civilian areas in Deraa and electricity and water supplies to city residents were cut off, Amnesty International said. The organization estimates more than 400 people have been killed across the country, many shot by Syrian government forces since the protests began.

However, the Syrian human rights organization Sawasiah estimated more than 560 people have been killed in the unrest so far.

To escape the violence, scores of Syrian nationals fled to the northern Jordanian city of Ramtha, The Jordan Times reported Sunday. Locals said the Syrians are staying with local families but refused to speak to the press so as not to endanger the lives of those remaining in Syria, the Jordanian daily said.

While Damascus ordered the closure of the border crossing with Jordan last week, some Syrians succeeded in sneaking across the border to purchase supplies, baby formula and medicine, the newspaper said. Sky News reported Syrian security agents arrested two key opposition leaders -- Hassan Abdel Azim, 81, and Omar Qashash, 85.

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